Yesterday, in a first for a major drug company, GlaxoSmithKline announced that it will no longer pay physicians to promote their products. As described in the New York Times, the announcement follows criticism by "those who question whether [the practice] unduly influences the information doctors give each other and can lead them to prescribe drugs inappropriately to patients."
After hearing the news, I contacted Philip Pizzo, MD, former dean of Stanford's school of medicine, to get his thoughts. Pizzo argued for years that there was an erosion of public trust in the profession of medicine and a big reason for it was doctors' industry ties and perceived conflicts of interest. Under his tenure, the medical school enacted one of the most comprehensive policies in the country governing the interactions between academic faculty and the medical industry.
"The news by Glaxo is welcome, albeit long overdue," Pizzo told me in an e-mail. He said he hopes other major pharmaceutical and device companies will follow suit, "which is what happened several years ago when Stanford and a handful of other medical schools and universities took the lead in developing thoughtful new policies focusing on academic-industry relations and, in particular, prohibiting doctors and faculty from engaging in the marketing of drugs and devices."
Pizzo noted that when Stanford put its conflict-of-interest policies in place, beginning in 2006, "we felt that sustaining the public trust was foremost and that marketing activities by physicians could not be permitted. It is important to note that companies like Glaxo are also now seeking to assure the public trust with their new policy, and it is hoped that this too will become a national standard."
Previously: Law casts “sunshine” on physician-industry relationships, Stanford develops new industry-funded model for continuing education of physicians, Stanford’s medical school expands its policy to limit industry access and Faculty consulting work: now on public view