Tuesday, 23 October 2007

German prosecutors probe again into bribes by drug companies

I was trawling through a Google search, when I came across a couple of little gems from the back catalogue of the BMJ. I was actually following up on the reference to German investigations, that I posted, yesterday, and came across this:

German prosecutors probe again into bribes by drug companies

[Anton Winkler, spokesman for the Munich state prosecutor, noted] that an investigation opened against SmithKline Beecham in Germany in 1999 by the Munich state prosecutor, who started investigations into the activities of 4000 doctors accused of accepting bribes from SmithKline Beecham across the whole country. This was concluded this week. Seventy one doctors in the city and dozens of employees of SmithKline Beecham have been accused of bribery.

The main feature of the story, however, covers a second investigation, featuring some "seven to nine" drug companies, none of which featured the Bedford Massive. The story is of particular concern to the Germans, because it is reported that, of the known bribery cases in Germany, one third occur in the health sector. Nice.

The second story, which popped up unexpectedly concerns price fixing. I probably would have made the suggestion myself, but it seems that there is a concern that while this activity is present in the UK, there is a suspicion that it affects other countries in the EU. That pesky Worshipful Company, eh?

Drugs companies are defrauding healthcare systems, conference hears

Professor Peter Schonhofer of the Institute of Pharmacology, Bremen, said the fraud included not being able to view data from clinical trials submitted to the German regulatory body, the Federal Institute of Drugs and Medicinal Products.

"If they have information they don't tell us it," he told the BMJ. "We don't have access to relevant data."

That could mean therapeutic decisions were inappropriate—but because the relevant data were covered by a commercial confidentiality clause, those outside the institute could never know how appropriate the treatment was.

He also cited what is euphemistically called a "drug use study," whereby a doctor is paid anything from EUR200 (GBP140; $250) to EUR500 for transferring a patient from one drug to another and then filling in a form to say what they have done.

"We know that the pharmaceutical industry in German has spent EUR1bn a year for such drug use studies. And it is not just in Germany. In Italy, GSK [GlaxoSmithKline] spent EUR28m over a 12 year period just for doctors to provide a signature."

Smooth. And this business of "drug use studies" fits in nicely with the previous piece. But there's more:

Jim Gee, chief executive of the Department of Health's NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service, said they had evidence to suggest the existence of a price fixing cartel. Six pharmaceutical companies are allegedly involved in fixing the price of warfarin, costing the NHS GBP28m; seven are allegedly involved in keeping the price of penicillin high, costing the NHS GBP30m...

"Clearly these companies operate in the other countries too," Mr Gee said, suggesting that other European countries might also have been similarly defrauded.

Altogether now (to the tune of "Always look on the bright side," or the Archers' theme tune (use your imagination, I know it doesn't scan)):

Extend and enhance life by
Living longer and feeling better
Do more by being
Committed to helping people improve their health

Let's find new ideas that are inspired by life
And respect people's integrity and excellence
We can all ease suffering and enhance the quality of life, and
Always look on the bright side of life...(rpt)

And when you've finished puking, you may award yourself a cookie for every Worshipful Company tagline you spotted (in order to replace the ones you tossed)! Clue: I've "trimmed" them, in order to have them make vague sense.

No comments: