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French pharmaceutical industry association denounces recent study on influence of gifts on prescribing practices

15 November 2019

On 6 November 2019, a study into the association between gifts from pharmaceutical companies to French general practitioners (GPs) and their medicine prescribing patterns was published in the British Medical Journal. The study suggested that French GPs who do not receive gifts from pharmaceutical companies have better drug prescription efficiency indicators and less costly drug prescriptions than those who do receive gifts.

On the same day, the LEEM, the French industry organisation of pharmaceutical companies, published a press release in which it, alongside pharmaceutical companies, expressed its strongest reservations regarding the conclusions drawn in the study, and clarified certain points to facilitate interpretation:

  • The study deliberately confuses lawful "benefits" and unlawful "gifts". The term "gift" should be replaced with "benefits", which are permitted and strictly regulated.
  • The generic term "benefits" covers payments relating to scientific and training events and associated accommodation, travel and meal costs, and so on. The great majority of benefits, that is, more than 98%, have a value less than EUR1,000. The analysis of such data is hence considered very challenging.
  • As made clear by the authors of the paper, a causal link cannot be inferred from the correlation that was established between gifts and GPs' prescribing patterns.
  • The classes of medicinal products taken into account are mostly generic and are generally no longer promoted by the companies or their medical representatives.
  • The study and its commentators create confusion between the optimisation of treatment costs and the effectiveness, and even the safety, of prescriptions and therefore the quality of care provided to the patient.

Therefore, the LEEM denounces the new criticism of the pharmaceutical industry, which is already subject to the most extensive transparency compliance obligations compared to other industries. The LEEM points out that pharmaceutical companies have consistently supported the move to greater transparency, which should restore confidence rather than fuel suspicion.

This article was co-authored by Alexis Vaujany.

A prior version of this post was originally published by the same authors in Practical Law – Life Sciences, December 2019 Issue (Thomson Reuters).

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