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Medical chamber cracks down on corruption

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Milan Kubek: Medical chamber president Milan Kubek wants to weed out corruption among doctors. (ČTK)Medical chamber president Milan Kubek wants to weed out corruption
among doctors. (ČTK)
Doctor Jan Hnízdil has been fighting the corruption of doctors by pharmaceutical companies for a long time. Even he had opportunities to travel to exotic destinations to conferences and dine at lavish dinners fully paid for by pharmaceutical companies in exchange for “prescribing the right medications”.

According to a new anti-corruption package for doctors, which the Czech Medical Chamber planned to publicise Thursday, every doctor who would accept an invitation to a sumptuous meal could face a fine totalling thousands of crowns. “Allowing pharmacutical companies pay for expensive dinners is unacceptable,” said medical chamber president Milan Kubek.

The chamber is preparing even stricter penalties. In the most extreme cases this could involve being dismissed from the chamber (membership for practicing doctors is compulsory), so, in other words, ending a career.

The chamber will forbid doctors from accepting exceedingly large gifts, to travel to conferences that do not have a scholarly program or letting companies pay for anything for their friends or relatives.

If companies want to pay doctors for clinical drug studies, doctors will need to immediately publicise any such studies. Big pharmaceutical companies mostly welcome the new doctors’ regulations: “This is a very good development,” said Radim Petráš, director of the Asscation of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industries. “Having to publicise the sponsors of clinical studies is standard procedure abroad,” he added.

Lumír Kroček, director of the Czech Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, however, is not impressed with the new rules. “They didn’t discuss it with us. There is nothing to comment,” he said.The association unites the producers of cheaper, generic drugs.

The anticorruption agency Transparency International and the Health Ministry support the chamber’s plan. “This step could return the relations between doctors and companies to a civilised level,” said David Ondráčka, director of Transparency International.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but we think the measures should be even tougher,” said Deputy Health Minister Marek Šnajdr. The ministry is planning fines of millions of crowns for companies that break the rules. It also wants to enable the State Institute for Drug Control to do controls directly at doctors’ offices.

Dobřichovice doctor Jan Hnízdil, who is critical of pharmaceutical companies’ corruptive behaviour, however, finds the new rules too soft. He does not like especially the fact that doctors will continue to be able to accept company money to travel to scholarly conferences. “There is no reason why firms should pay doctors to attend any congress. If they are doing that, it could always potentially lead to corruption,” said Hnízdil.

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