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GSK ‘to employ more doctors’

Published on 22/04/14 at 11:05am
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GlaxoSmithKline is to employ more doctors as members of staff in a bid to ensure that the company is seen as an exemplar of ethical practice, according to media reports.

GSK pledged earlier this year to make ‘fundamental changes’ to the way it does business.

In an interview with Reuters, chief medical officer James Shannon says GSK will boost its team of approximately 1,500 doctors by 10-20% over the next year or so.

Shannon acknowledges that it will take ‘a lot of work’ to alter how GSK conducts its relations with doctors who are outside the company, but believes the move towards greater transparency in pharma means firms will have to change their modus operandi.

“Sometimes you have to take a slight step backwards to move forwards,” he says. “I’m assuming society will continue the pressure, and everybody else will have to follow, and I would rather be doing this in an organised way over the next 18 months rather than find that regulations have changed and we are forced to implement it in six months.”

The company has already decided that by 2016 it will stop paying outside doctors who appear as key opinion leaders at conferences and to break the link between targets and incentives for its sales people.

Some of the doctors GSK plans to recruit – who will be both junior and senior - will become expert speakers at meetings for which third party speakers have previously been paid honoraria.

“It is still important to have those discussions, but there will probably be less than we have today,” Shannon informs Reuters. “This is not a one-for-one process of stopping paying doctor X and replacing him by doctor Y - this is an entire rethink about our business practice.”

Shannon tells Reuters that GSK’s business in the US has not suffered after the company removed the link between sales volumes and the amount of money it pays to its sales reps.

GSK finds itself in a curious position: on the one hand it is involved in a series of damaging corruption investigations in a number of countries, in particular China.

On the other, it is a leading light in the transparency movement – the first pharma manufacturer to sign up to the AllTrials campaign, and forging ahead with making a significant amount of clinical trial information available for third party access on its multi-sponsor request system (clinicalstudydatarequest.com).

GSK has long stated that it has ‘zero tolerance’ for unethical or illegal behaviour but the latest potential scandal for the London-based firm is blowing in from Poland, where it faces legal action for allegedly paying doctors in the country to prescribe its drugs. 

GSK is facing a criminal investigation as 11 doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012.

Adam Hill

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