Glaxo to stop paying doctors to promote its drugs

British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the antidepressant Paxil, said it would end its practice of paying doctors to promote its drugs.
(Tannen Maury / Bloomberg News)

Ending a practice that some say creates a conflict of interest, British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline said Tuesday it would end its practice of paying doctors to promote its drugs.

Glaxo, maker of drugs such as the antidepressant Paxil, also said it would no longer tie compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions a doctor writes, the company’s chief executive said in a statement.

The changes “are designed to bring greater clarity and confidence that whenever we talk to a doctor, nurse or other prescriber, it is patients’ interests that always come first,” said Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive. “We recognize that we have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently and without any perception of conflict of interest.”

Glaxo’s announcement appears to make it the largest pharmaceutical company to end the practice of paying doctors that promote brand-name drugs. The practice, in place for decades at many firms, has been criticized for creating a conflict of interest.


Doctors, the company said, will no longer be paid to speak on Glaxo’s behalf. Instead of paying doctors to attend conferences, Glaxo said it would fund education efforts through grants, though no specific details were offered Tuesday.

Beginning in 2015, Witty said, the company would change how its sales representatives are paid, moving to a model that Glaxo first tested in the U.S. in 2011. In that program, sales representatives were paid for their technical knowledge and for working directly with doctors on “a blend of qualitative measures and the overall performance of their business, rather than the number of prescriptions generated,” Witty said.

Glaxo in 2012 paid $3 billion in fines to resolve charges that it had marketed drugs for unapproved uses -- one of several major companies to have settled such cases recently.


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