The Current

Pharma launches voluntary guidelines for payment disclosures

A select number of drug companies are moving towards transparency by divulging their payments to doctors. The voluntary program aims to address the public perception between drug companies and doctors. But critics saying they aren't moving far enough or fast enough.
Critics of a new voluntary program encouraging drug companies to report payments to the medical community say the guidelines are window dressing and doesn't disclose how much individual doctors are being paid. (iStock)

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Ten Canadian-based drug companies have agreed to start disclosing overall totals for how much they pay doctors and medical associations every year. 

Society is moving towards this movement of disclosure. We think this is a helpful offering to help show the value of these relationships between our industry and health care professionals.- Russell Williams, Innovative Medicines Canada, on Pharma disclosing payment to doctors

Just as drug companies market to consumers, they're also keenly interested in marketing to doctors. In 2014, payments made to doctors in the U.S. by pharmaceutical companies have been put online, listed doctor-by-doctor for all to see. Many pharmaceutical industry observers say it's a giant move.

A parallel program to the U.S., is taking shape in Canada but is voluntary. Canada has no federal legislation compelling drug companies to report payments to doctors, even though countries such as the United States, France and Denmark do. 

The selected drug companies that are participating in the program will release information on their websites in 2017 hoping this move towards transparency will help with the public perception between drug companies and doctors. But critics saying they aren't moving far enough or fast enough. 

Guests in this segment:

  • Dr. Dee Mangin,  David Braley chair in the department of family medicine at McMaster University
  • Russell Williams, president of Innovative Medicines Canada, an industry association that represents Canadian drug companies.
  • Matthew Herder, lawyer who teaches medicine and also law at Dalhousie University.

The Current invited Health Minister Jane Philpott to be part of this discussion, her office declined.|

This segment was produced by The Current's Vanessa Greco and Julian Uzielli.