Medicines Australia new Code of Conduct - what it means for medical practitioners
In June 2015, the ACCC authorised a new version of Medicine Australia’s Code of Conduct. Medicines Australia is the peak body representing the interests of over 30 innovative pharmaceutical companies in Australia.
While this Code of Conduct governs the activities of pharmaceutical companies who are members of Medicines Australia, there are important implications for medical practitioners.
Background (click here to read more)
Key features (click here to read more)
Additional information is available on Medicines Australia website.
The new Code will require pharmaceutical companies who are members of Medicines Australia to publicly report the details of some, but not all, types of payments they make to individual health practitioners. A list of the types of reportable payments is provided below under ‘key features’.
The AMA supports transparency of pharmaceutical company relationships with practitioners. The AMA lobbied hard – starting in 2012 – to make sure a USA-style transparency system was not imposed in Australia. This would have required the collection of information about every industry-practitioner ‘transaction’ equal to or over $10 in value, such as providing tea and biscuits at a meeting.
This 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 ACCC which resulted in the new 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 healthcare practitioner.
Medicines Australia is conducting a communications campaign to increase awareness of the new Code requirements. Additional information is available on its website [https://medicinesaustralia.com.au/code-of-conduct/].
Types of payment categories
Medicine Australia’s new Code of Conduct requires its member pharmaceutical companies to report on payments or benefits, provided to individual health practitioners, that fall in the following categories:
a) fees and/or speaking fees to a healthcare professional
b) sponsorship for a healthcare professional to attend an educational event: airfares, accommodation and/or registration fees
c) fees paid to healthcare professional consultants in Australia, or to their employers on their behalf, for specific services rendered by them: consulting fees, accommodation and airfares
d) fees paid to healthcare professionals in their role as Advisory Board members: sitting fees, accommodation and airfares
e) fees paid to healthcare professionals for the purpose of market research where the identity of the healthcare professional is known to the company
f) payment of an educational grant or sponsorship to a specific healthcare professional.
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. Individuals will be able to withhold consent.
From 1 October 2016, pharmaceutical companies will only be required to inform practitioners of their obligation to publish payment information; practitioners who accept payments are providing their consent.
Information collection and publishing
Information on payments made to practitioners will be collected by each pharmaceutical company and reported in CSV (comma separated values) format so that it may be downloaded, analysed and communicated by a range of individuals including the media.
Published information will include:
- date of the event or provision of service
- health practitioner’s name
- type of practitioner e.g. medical practitioner
- principal practice address
- description of service
- description of event
- whether the payment was made to the practitioner or a third party
- payment amount
Each practitioner who receives a payment will have the opportunity to check the information is correct before it is published.
The reports will be posted on individual pharmaceutical company websites. The Medicines Australia website will provide links to all reports. A central register of payments may be established in the future.
Individual information will retained and published for three years.