GSK to stop paying doctors in overhaul to marketing plan

GLAXOSMITHKLINE will stop paying doctors for promoting its drugs and scrap prescription targets for its marketing staff – a first for an industry battling scandals over its sales practices, and a challenge for its peers to follow suit.

The drugmaker also said yesterday it would stop payments to healthcare professionals for attending medical conferences as it tries to persuade critics it is addressing conflicts of interest that could put commercial interests ahead of the best outcome for patients. The move may force other companies to act, since the entire drugs industry has been under fire for aggressive marketing tactics in recent years.

GlaxoSmithKline’s move comes amid a major bribery investigation in China, where police have accused it of funnelling up to 3bn yuan (£304m) to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to boost its drug sales. However, the company said the measures were not directly related to its Chinese problems and were rather part of a broad effort to improve transparency.

GSK’s chief executive Andrew Witty said his company’s actions were designed to ensure that patients’ interests always came first.

“We recognise that we have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently and without any perception of conflict of interest,” he said.

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