Lavishing Doctors with Drug Money

Medicines Australia (MA), the peak drug industry lobby group, has unveiled details of how much its 42 member companies (and one non-member) spent in the last half of 2007 on each one of over 14,000 events that were designed to promote their drugs to doctors. In a backgrounder, MA claimed that under its self-regulatory code of conduct "the provision of lavish hospitality is banned." (The actual provision sets no thresholds for what constitutes "lavish" hospitality.) However, buried in the hundreds of pages of the reports are unprecedented details of expensive drug industry events. Roche spent $A511,791 on a three-day hepatitis symposium attended by 337 specialists at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt hotel. AstraZeneca forked out over $A514,000 for a weekend seminar at Crown Casino in Melbourne that was attended by 220 gastroenterologists and Pfizer spent $A340,000 on a cardiovascular forum for 220 specialists.