A federal investigation into marketing tactics by big drug companies, including alleged illegal payoffs to doctors, underscores the need for the medical profession to do a better job of policing itself when it comes to business ethics, said Michael Fleming, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"This gives us all a black eye," said Fleming, a family physician in Shreveport, La. "It's a real problem."
The New York Times reported Sunday that federal authorities are investigating a number of pharmaceutical companies in the wake of allegations that physicians received $10,000 checks to encourage them to prescribe specific drugs.
Both the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have ethics codes that limit gifts to a value of less than $100 in most cases.
The AMA policy, in effect since 1990, was adopted by PhRMA in July 2002. Earlier this month, the AMA's House of Delegates rejected a proposal to water down the policy.
Fleming suggested that perhaps the AMA should create an even tougher ethics code. "I think the (AMA) policy is pretty strict," he said. "But there needs to be a better way to enforce this."