At least 44 academic medical centers have restricted industry-funded speaking relationships, according to an annual scorecard released by the American Medical Student Association. Only four medical schools had done so in 2008.
Glaxo announced last week that it will stop making direct payments to healthcare providers by the start of 2016. It also plans to roll out a new compensation system for every sales employee worldwide who works directly with doctors and other healthcare professionals who prescribe medications.
“We're seeing that companies are generally curbing the more aggressive marketing tactics that they considered business as usual in the past,” said Dr. Daniel Carlat, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' prescription project. “The Sunshine Act is a critical part of the story because the fees paid to docs to market drugs are embarrassing to everyone involved.”
But Eli Lilly & Co., Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Shire told Bloomberg News that they won't stop paying doctors to talk with other physicians about their products.
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged other drug companies to follow Glaxo's lead. “For companies that choose not to stop these practices, they should be aware that Congress will scrutinize their actions very closely through the ACA's new reporting requirements,” he said.
The Sunshine Act is not the only impetus for changing pharmaceutical industry marketing practices. Glaxo has to alter the way it pays its sales force under a corporate integrity agreement entered with HHS' Office of the Inspector General as part of a $3 billion agreement to resolve civil and criminal liability for a range of allegations, including illegal promotion of Paxil and Wellbutrin. Other drugmakers also have paid out large fines and settlements for improper marketing. In addition, Glaxo has come under fire in recent months in China, where police accused its executives of using bribes and sexual favors to help it gain a greater foothold there.
The new Glaxo compensation framework, the company said last week, rewards sales representatives according to a “blend of qualitative measures and the overall performance of their business, rather than the number of prescriptions generated.”
In a written statement, Glaxo CEO Andrew Witty said the changes are part of his company's broader initiative to evaluate whether its business practices “are responding to the needs of patients and meeting the wider expectations of society.”
Follow Jaimy Lee on Twitter: @MHjlee