In a bold move, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that it will make big changes in its marketing practices by no longer paying physicians to promote its products. You read that right. Under its new policy, GSK will no longer pay physicians to speak on its behalf to medical professionals at conferences and other events. The company’s compensation model for pharmaceutical sales representatives will also move away from incentives based on individual physicians’ prescribing habits. GSK is is the first major pharmaceutical company to dismantle these longstanding marketing techniques which create conflict of interest for physicians. It is a move to be celebrated.
GSK’s policy change responds to growing pressure for transparency regarding financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Concern about rampant conflicts of interest in this arena has already led to new federal policy establishing the Physician Payment Sunshine Act’s Open Payments website. Starting in September 2014, this searchable public site will disclose industry payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals. Medical schools and teaching hospitals are also taking an increasingly critical look at their own policies and practices regarding conflict of interest with industry–a house-cleaning effort strongly encouraged by the National Physicians Alliance. Last week, an expert task force convened by The Pew Charitable Trusts issued new recommendations for best practices in conflict-of-interest policies at academic medical centers.
Reducing conflict of interest in medicine is core to the mission and daily work of the National Physicians Alliance (NPA). To promote conflict-free medicine, the NPA hosts a National Grand Rounds Webcast Series and bimonthly Leadership Development Calls as part of our Unbranded Doctor project. Recent call topics have included “Covering & Exposing Pharmaceutical Industry Relationships” and “How I Sold Low–T: Guarding against Industry Influence.”
The NPA encourages all physicians to join our network of Unbranded Doctors — a community committed to reducing the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on our profession.