Drug industry bans pop stars at conferences

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Local folk dancers are still allowed but well-known pop stars will no longer be permitted to entertain at drug company events for doctors, under a tougher new industry code of practice launched on Wednesday.

Six years after the previous rules were issued, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has approved stricter regulations designed to address concerns about aggressive and unethical corporate practices. The code calls for:

■Curbs by drug companies on providing excessive entertainment and foreign travel for doctors.

■An end to clinical research studies that are covert forms of marketing.

■Safeguards to ensure any free medical samples handed out are not resold or misused.

IFPMA members, which include the world’s main drug companies, will be expected to comply from the start of next year. But Wednesday’s publication coincided with a meeting in Madrid of a network of compliance officers who will promote and share knowledge on ethical practices.

Harvey Bale, director-general of the IFPMA, said the code reflected “the global pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to ethical marketing practices that are intended to benefit patients and enhance the practice of medicine”.

He stressed its importance as a set of guidelines for drug companies throughout the world, including in countries which did not have their own national ethical rules or regulations.

However, IFPMA’s rules fall short of still stricter wording contained in some other recent codes. For instance, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has strict caps on the value of gifts and forbids air travel other than in economy class.

The IFPMA code excludes consideration of the promotion of prescription-only medicines to the public, notably the direct-to-consumer advertising banned in Europe which has spar-ked debate in the US over its use. It says that gifts for personal benefit, such as DVDs and entertainment tickets, should not be given and there will be no reimbursement for spouses attending scientific conferences funded by the companies.

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