Uproar as doctors call for drug-rep sin bin

The pharmaceutical industry is challenging a controversial campaign by a group of GPs and academics that seeks to ban all contact between drug company representatives and doctors.

Dubbed No Advertising Please (NAP), the campaign is designed to encourage doctors to sign a pledge that they will not see drug company representatives for a year.

NAP spokesperson Dr Justin Coleman, a Brisbane GP, says more than 50 doctors from across Australia signed the pledge before the official launch at the GP14 conference in Adelaide this Saturday - October 11.

The NAP alliance, which includes controversial activist and academic Dr Ken Harvey, cites research showing information from drug reps “is associated with increases in prescriptions of promoted drugs, decreased quality of prescribing and increased costs”.

Dr Coleman says the campaign is not seeking to demonise pharmaceutical companies but “we do want to discourage the routine acceptance by doctors of the promotion of drugs this way”.

But Medicines Australia Chairman Dr Martin Cross argues the proposed campaign is misguided and potentially dangerous for patients.

“These campaigners must have very low regard for doctors’ ability to clinically assess and prescribe the most suitable treatment for their patients,” he says.

“By barring contact with company representatives, it would be like having open heart surgery knowing that the surgeon hasn’t been taught how to use the equipment by the people that made it.”

But Dr Harvey says there are much better ways of getting independent information. He argues doctors can access independent sources of information in NPS Medicinewise, Australian Prescriber, Australian Medicines Handbook and Therapeutic Guidelines.