So you’re a pharmaceutical company, and you’ve just been accused of bribing doctors in a foreign country. What’s your next step? If you’re GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the answer is eliminating much of the need for outside marketing altogether, as the company seeks to expand its team of in-house physicians by 10 to 20 percent over the next year.
GSK announced on April 17 that the company will be severing commercial ties with outside doctors. Instead, the company says, it will be expanding its in-house team already made up of 1,500 physicians.
In this way, GSK hopes to cut down on the bribery allegations that have become a major problem as of late. On April 16, 2014, the company announced that it was investigating bribes of foreign doctors in Jordan and Lebanon, offers of flexible travel arrangements and free samples that were later flipped for money. The company has also faced allegations of bribery in China and Iraq.
GSK Chief Medical Officer James Shannon told Reuters that the shift in priorities will require “a lot of work,” but also said that something needed to be done about the “shameful” bribery epidemic. He said that he sees this type of shift as the way of the future and would rather be proactive than reactive.
“I'm assuming society will continue the pressure, and everybody else will have to follow, and I would rather be doing this in an organized way over the next 18 months rather than find that regulations have changed and we are forced to implement it in six months,” Shannon said.
As part of the new philosophy, GSK will no longer pay doctors to promote its products, will not provide funds for doctors to attend conferences, and will separate incentives for sales representatives from sales targets. GSK said that it has already performed the latter operation in the United States and has not seen a drop in sales as a result.
GSK does not anticipate this plan being without some bumps, but the company does believe that it will ultimately be a positive as bribery is eliminated. “Sometimes you have to take a slight step backwards to move forwards,” Shannon said.
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