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Medicines Australia’s new Code of Conduct – what it means for medical practitioners

Medicines Australia’s new Code of Conduct – what it means for medical practitioners - Featured Image

From 1 October 2015, pharmaceutical companies who are members of Medicines Australia will begin collecting information about payments they make to individual health practitioners so that they can start publishing it on their websites next year.

The Medicines Australia Code of Conduct now requires its members to publicly report details of certain categories of payments made to practitioners.

Medical practitioners who receive payments or benefits from pharmaceutical companies should ensure they fully understand the new requirements and any implications for them. For example, practitioners should be aware that the public reports will be published in a format to allow data to be downloaded and analysed.

Reporting will commence in two stages.

From 1 October 2015, pharmaceutical companies will collect data on the relevant categories of payments so that they can publicly report on the payments made to individual health practitioners.

In line with Australian privacy legislation, companies will need to seek consent from individuals before this can be published. Individual practitioners will be able to withhold consent.

From 1 October 2016, pharmaceutical companies will only be able to enter into relationships with practitioners who consent to this information being published as a condition of accepting the payment.

The AMA supports transparency of pharmaceutical company relationships with practitioners.

The AMA lobbied hard – starting in 2012 – to make sure a US-style transparency system was not imposed in Australia. This would have required the collection of information about every industry-practitioner ‘transaction’ equal to or more than $10 in value, such as providing tea and biscuits at a meeting.

The Medicines Australia Code increases the transparency of industry-practitioner relationships for the public without creating an unnecessary red tape burden.

The final model is similar to codes of conduct adopted in Europe by focusing on significant transactions most likely to provide meaningful information to patients about their practitioners’ relationships.

The AMA also made strong representations to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which resulted in the public reporting requirements being phased in over 12 months, so that all parties will have the opportunity to understand, plan for, and fully comply with the new requirements.

Unfortunately, although the AMA strongly opposed the ACCC’s reporting requirement, all information will be reported in a form that can be downloaded and analysed.

The AMA argued that the public should only be able to search for one practitioner name at a time, consistent with its use by patients seeking information about their health practitioner.

A full list of the categories of payments that will be publicly reported, and the detail of the information included in the reports, is available on the AMA website.

Further information is also available on the Medicines Australia website.

Georgia Morris