Articles examining the relationship between prescribers and the pharmaceutical industry are to be published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on May 31. The ABPI has not been contacted for comment and its contributions have been rejected. In the interests of fair and balanced reporting, the ABPI is providing a brief commentary on the issues.
Significant progress continues to be made in the diagnosis and understanding of diseases, leading to ongoing research and development of new, more effective medicines. Once a medicine becomes available for prescription, a great deal of detail about the medicine is required by doctors before patients can fully benefit. There can be no better qualified source than the companies who spend on average £350 million and 10 - 12 years researching, developing and testing a single new medicine, and it makes dialogue between the pharmaceutical industry and doctors in the UK not just important, but essential.
Companies disseminate information about medicines and disease areas at a variety of events including workshops, seminars, lectures and symposia. These are useful aids to further doctors' knowledge about the latest advances - knowledge that will help them perform their tasks better, and thus benefit patients.
Company representatives are highly trained and qualified. Indeed, they are almost entirely graduates and must be appropriately trained - members of the ABPI and those agreeing to abide by its Code of Practice must take a compulsory ABPI examination within two years of starting. They can provide doctors with a great deal of information and advice about the medicines in their company's portfolio, especially during the early launch period. They have up-to-date information on clinical trials, pharmacovigilance reports and, importantly, feedback from other doctors.
In the UK, activities are strictly controlled by the ABPI Code of Practice which reflects and extends beyond the UK law. Its aim is "to ensure that the promotion of medicines to members of the health professions and to administrative staff is carried out in a responsible, ethical and professional manner".
The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) was established by the ABPI and is responsible for administering the Code. Anyone who has concerns about the marketing and promotional activities of any pharmaceutical company is encouraged to notify the PMCPA. Complaints are rigorously investigated and detailed case reports are made publicly available.
"The UK-based pharmaceutical industry strives to maintain the highest possible ethical standards in its dealing with healthcare professionals and other stakeholders," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI.
"It is important both to the industry, as producers of modern, innovative medicines, and to those who prescribe them, that regular dialogue is maintained to ensure that patients, everywhere, benefit from the most appropriate treatment for their condition."
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410