A new alliance of Australian GPs is pledging to ban pharmaceutical company representatives from “educational” visits to their practices.
The ban forms the centrepiece of a national campaign aimed at reducing the prescription of medications in inappropriate and potentially harmful ways, the group says.
The “No Advertising Please” (NAP) campaign is to be launched this weekend at the annual conference of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in Adelaide.
As part of the campaign, GPs will sign a pledge declining to see for a year visiting drug company representatives.
More than 70 doctors from across Australia have already signed the pledge.
The NAP group sponsoring the campaign cites research finding that information from pharmaceutical companies - including from drug rep visits – was associated with increases in prescriptions of promoted drugs, decreased quality of prescribing and increased costs.
In a study of Australian GPs from 2010, only around half of presentations from sales representatives included information about side effects, drug interactions and contraindications, the NAP group said.
NAP spokesperson, Brisbane GP Dr Justin Coleman, said the campaign was not seeking to demonise pharmaceutical companies which produced so many life-improving drugs. “But we do want to discourage the routine acceptance by doctors of the promotion of drugs in this way.
“The associated perks may be minor but the research shows such marketing tends to raise the risk of patients getting inappropriate medicines.
“That is an unacceptable state of affairs which erodes patient trust in their doctor. At a time when there are increasing numbers of accessible sources of independent evidence-based information on medicines, NAP is aimed at strengthening the prescribing credibility of doctors in Australia,” he said.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia has welcomed the campaign “as an important sign that doctors’ prescribing decisions are based on best independent evidence.
“The NAP campaign brings a new and refreshing level of transparency into medical practice,” the Chief Executive Officer of CHF, Adam Stankevicius said. “It can only boost the level of trust patients place in their doctors to see a NAP poster in their waiting rooms.”
The NAP group cited on its website overseas examples of misleading promotion of medicines that are marketed in Australia, including Vioxx, Pradaxa, Avandia and Tamiflu.
Medicines Australia have described the proposed campaign as misguided and potentially dangerous for patients.
Medicines Australia Chairman Dr Martin Cross said, “these campaigners must have very low regard for doctors’ ability to clinically assess and prescribe the most suitable treatment for their patients.”