This week GlaxoSmithKline became the first major pharmaceutical company to announce it would no longer compensate physicians for talks promoting its products or about diseases its products treat to “audiences who can prescribe or influence prescribing,” GSK said in a statement. According to watchdog news organization ProPublica’s Dollars for Doctors arm, GSK already had been winding down its promotional speaking programs, with an overall decline of 80 percent between 2009 and 2012. The company will continue to sponsor clinical and market research, and advisory committees, which it considers essential for drug research and development.
GSK also plans to take some of its U.S. policies worldwide. GSK will no longer pay for healthcare providers to attend conferences. The practice, which already is banned for U.S. physicians and is under scrutiny in many countries, is one for which GSK is under investigation in China. The company says there is no causal relationship between the investigation and its new policy. GSK isn’t the first to forgo paying for non-U.S. physician travel; Astra Zeneca made a similar announcement two years ago. GSK says it will continue to “fund education for healthcare professionals through unsolicited, independent educational grant routes.”
GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty said in a statement, “We recognize 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.”
The company also will stop tying sales rep compensation to the number of prescriptions written, according to a report in The New York Times. Instead, starting in 2015, pay for sales reps worldwide will be tied to technical knowledge, quality of customer service, and Glaxo’s overall performance—something that’s been in place for two years in the U.S. as required by a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Justice.
Witty told The Times the announcement was part of a multiyear effort to try “make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing.” One of the ways the world is changing is Open Payments, formerly called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which requires companies to make these types of financial transactions available on a public Web site starting in spring 2014.