​Glaxo Stops Paying Doctors To Promote Products​​

By:
December 18, 2021

Glaxo says it will stop paying doctors to promote its products, its chief executive said Monday, effectively ending two common industry practices that critics have long assailed as troublesome conflicts of interest.

The announcement appears to be a first for a major drug company — although others may be considering similar moves — and it comes at a particularly sensitive time for Glaxo. It is the subject of a bribery investigation in China, where authorities contend the company funneled illegal payments to doctors and government officials in an effort to lift drug sales.

Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview Monday that its proposed changes were unrelated to the investigation in China, and were part of a yearlong effort “to try and make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing,” he said. “We keep asking ourselves, are there different ways, more effective ways of operating than perhaps the ways we as an industry have been operating over the last 30, 40 years?”

For decades, pharmaceutical companies have paid doctors to speak on their behalf at conferences and other meetings of medical professionals, on the assumption that the doctors are most likely to value the advice of trusted peers.

But the practice has also been criticized by those who question whether it unduly influences the information doctors give each other and can lead them to prescribe drugs inappropriately to patients. All such payments by pharmaceutical companies are to be made public next year under requirements of the Obama administration’s health care law.

Under the plan, which Glaxo said would be completed worldwide by 2016, the company will no longer pay health care professionals to speak on its behalf about its products or the diseases they treat “to audiences who can prescribe or influence prescribing,” it said in a statement. It will also stop providing financial support directly to doctors to attend medical conferences, a practice that is prohibited in the United States through an industry-imposed ethics code but that still occurs in other countries. In China, the authorities have said Glaxo compensated doctors for travel to conferences and lectures that never took place.

Mr. Witty declined to comment on the investigation because he said it was still underway.

Glaxo will continue to pay doctors consulting fees for market research because Mr. Witty said it was necessary for the company to gain insight from doctors about their products, but he said that activity would be limited in scope. A Glaxo spokesman said that each year the company spends “tens of millions” of dollars globally on the practices that it was ending, but declined to be more specific.