MANILA, PHILIPPINES – “Physician, heal thyself” — The same scriptural prescription might as well apply to pharmaceutical firms whose relationship with medical professionals have grown cozy over time.
There used to be a thin line drawn between what is wrong or immoral and right and ethical in doctor-pharma relations. But that fine line had grown wider, thicker into a vast grey area of moral relativity, even in the supposedly noble profession of healing.
Thus, the imperative to return to the profession’s moral moorings.
Two organizations of medical professionals — the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine College of Physicians – have signed a memorandum of commitment promoting professional and ethical interactions with the pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders.
An administrative Order awaiting the approval of the Department of Health chief. The DoH AO has adopted the Mexico City Principles for Voluntary Business Code of Ethics in the Biopharmaceutical Sector as well as the Kuala Lumpur Principles: Medical Device Sector Code of Ethics.
Adherence to the Mexico City Principles was endorsed by 21 heads of state during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii in 2011.
The code includes standards for ethical promotion of medicine to ensure medical decisions are made in the best interest of patients. It is anchored on six basic principles:
1. Healthcare and patient focus – means that everything the pharmaceutical industry does is intended to benefit the patients.
2. Integrity – dealing ethically, with honesty and respect.
3. Independence – respecting the need of autonomous decision-making of all parties free from all improper influences.
4. Legitimate intent – means that everything the pharmaceutical company does is for the right reasons, is lawful, and aligns with the spirit and values of the Mexico Principles.
5. Transparency – general willingness to be open about the company’s actions while respecting legitimate commercial sensitivities and intellectual property rights.
6. Accountability – willingness to be responsible for our actions and our interactions.
This set of standards ensures that medical decisions are made in the best interests of patients and aims to raise public awareness about the ethical and professional nature of pharmaceutical companies’ interactions with healthcare professionals, medical institutions, and patient organizations. It also recognizes that such interactions between the biopharmaceutical sector and healthcare professionals help bolster patient care and advance the practice of medicine.
The principles also cover symposia and congresses, educational items and gifts, support to CMEs, etc.
Dr. Francisco Tranquilino, PCP regent, said that in sponsoring a convention or symposia, places that are extravagant, near resorts, and casinos must be avoided.
Also, when a company sponsors a dinner/lunch, the MD cannot bring his wife along with him, unless he would shoulder the expense.
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines has been adopting the Mexico City Principles for several years now.
Tranquilino noted that for five to six years years now, PHAP has already sanctioned many companies for their violations.
“For doctors who would violate, the Professional Regulation Commission will be their watchdog,” he said.
The PMA and PCP also both committed to cooperate with the DoH in the strict implementation of the department AO, and stated that all violations are meted out corresponding sanctions in a timely manner.
PCP and PMA took part in drafting the DoH AO. Other members of the (drafting) committee include the PHAP, Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, and the Philippine Hospitals Association.
Tranquilino said the committee started meeting last January, and filed the AO last month at the DoH.
– DFF, Medical Observer