The first review of the compulsory disclosure of pharmaceutical company hospitality in Australia has found that each week approximately 600 industry-sponsored events take place. Specialists who prescribe high-cost drugs are among the most common attendees.
A global team of researchers based at the University of Newcastle analysed the details of six months of pharmaceutical company events disclosed under new reporting conditions.
Conjoint lecturer in the Faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle and review co-author, Ray Moynihan, said of the $31 million spent on approximately 15,000 industry-sponsored events over the six months, $17 million was spent on hospitality alone.
"Thirty-five per cent of these pharmaceutical company funded events were held in restaurants, hotels and function centres," Mr Moynihan said.
"Although expenditure at individual events was often modest, the cumulative expenditure was high, with medical specialists like oncologists and cardiologists - those who prescribe high cost drugs - receiving the highest expenditure per head."
The review, published in this week's PLoS Medicine, found that psychiatrists (17.9 per cent) and oncologists (15.2 per cent) were the medical specialists most frequently hosted at events.
Stricter reporting conditions were introduced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2007 as part of a revised code governing pharmaceutical companies dealing with medical professionals.
Aimed at improving transparency, the ACCC required regular public reporting about the functions pharmaceutical companies host including the cost and type of hospitality provided and the people who attend.
In their review, Mr Moynihan and co-researchers concluded that the stricter reporting standards for disclosing ties between pharmaceutical companies and health professionals do not go far enough.
"Pharmaceutical companies do not have to declare the names of speakers at these events or the financial arrangements between the company and the speaker. In addition, an assessment of the educational content of the events is not required," Mr Moynihan said.
Mr Moynihan said the review was one if the first comprehensive analyses of data on pharmaceutical funded event since the tougher regulations were introduced.
"Given the Australian Government is currently undertaking a review of the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and doctors, our findings could serve as a valuable tool in identifying the shortfalls of the current regulations."
The research team was lead by Dr Jane Robertson from the University's Faculty of Health and included Conjoint Professor David Henry, Mr Ray Moynihan and colleagues in the School of Medicine and Public Health. The full paper is available at:
Ray Moynihan is available for interview.