Case notes on corruption - Source: Le Monde Diplomatique
Doctors rely on information supplied, and research done, by major drugs companies: so ’Big Pharma’ directly or indirectly influences the choice of prescriptions for patients.
By Philippe Rivière
THE media just loves stories about bribery and corruption in the corridors of political power. Yet when GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was under scrutiny, as it was in Italy earlier this year, the media was almost silent about it. The Italian police investigated 2,900 doctors: 37 employees of GSK Italy and 35 doctors were indicted for corruption, while 80 medical visitors were accused of making illegal payments to doctors who agreed to prescribe GSK products rather than generic equivalents. The only reports on this massive scandal were in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) (1) and the Guardian (2).
During the investigation, the police set up an elaborate computer system - Giove (Jupiter) - showing how GSK commercial representatives could track prescriptions made by doctors in their pay. According to the BMJ, 13,000 hours of phone taps give a clear picture of the relationship between prescriptions issued and the value of presents received by the doctors. Gifts included "medical" trips to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix or to the Caribbean, and cash payments of up to $1,700. Similar occurences have been discovered in the United States and Germany.
(1) Fabio Turone: "Italian police investigate GSK Italy for bribery", British Medical Journal, February 2003. (Restricted access)
(2) Sophie Arie: "British drugs giant in Italian bribery investigation", the Guardian, 13 February 2003.
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