PRESS RELEASE: New report reveals that drug company gifts to doctors threaten developing world healthcare

New report reveals that drug company gifts to doctors threaten developing world healthcare

CI Press Release - Congress 2007
The world federation of consumer organisations, Consumers International (CI), today revealed the extent to which pharmaceutical companies are trying to boost sales by seeking the favour of health professionals in the developing world.

The new report Drugs, Doctors and Dinners examines how the world’s leading drug companies, desperate to allay falling profits in Western markets, are attempting to sway doctor prescription habits and advice to consumers.

The investigations revealed drug company gifts include air conditioners, laptops, club membership, foreign conferences at five star hotels, brand new cars and school tuition fees.

One example in the report highlights how drug reps took up 17 hours of one Malaysian GP’s surgery time in promotional interaction over a five-week period. The GP received over 70 separate promotional items from the likes of AstraZenica GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis in just one month*.

The multinational study also reveals how pharma giants such as GSK, Novartis, Roche and Wyeth have taken advantage of poor regulatory infrastructure in developing countries to brand Continued Medical Education (CME), promote inappropriate drug use, and omit information about side-effects from health journal advertisements**.

The report points to evidence that such marketing techniques are having an effect, with half of the doctors canvassed in one developing country acknowledging drug company promotions influence prescription behaviour. Consumers International asserts that this can lead to irrational drug use by consumers, with potentially serious, even fatal, consequences – a claim supported by a recent UK government study that showed 50% of medicines in the developing world are inappropriately prescribed, dispensed or sold***.

Richard Lloyd, Director General of Consumers International, said:

“The pharma industry sees the developing world as a trillion dollar opportunity to secure profits over the next forty years. Weak regulation makes these markets an easy target for the marketing techniques of multinational drug companies, but consumer health expenditure in these countries can ill afford to be squandered on irrational drug use. Consumers International believes the best way to ensure patients in the developing world get rational, impartial treatment from their doctor is for governments and the pharma industry to ban the practice of giving gifts to doctors entirely. ” 

* Full details and images can be viewed in Drug Doctors and Dinners, pg6. Advance PDF copies of the report can be obtained from Luke Upchurch [email protected] +44 796 894 9327 

**Annotated examples of these promotional materials can be viewed in Drugs Doctors and Dinners, pg 24-29. Advance PDF copies of the report can be obtained from Luke Upchurch [email protected] +44 796 894 9327 

*** DFID. January 2006. Access to Medicine Factsheet. Accessed 1 October 2007 at:

Notes to editors

1. Consumers International (CI) is the global federation of consumer organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumer's rights worldwide through empowering national consumer groups and campaigning at the international level. It currently represents over 220 organisations in 115 countries.

2. The report Drugs, Doctors and Dinners: How drug companies influence health in the developing world reveals the marketing practices in emerging and developing economy markets by leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. The report focuses on doctor related promotion, through advertisements, branded education, gifts and sales representatives.

3. The report is part of Marketing Overdose, CI’s ongoing campaign against irresponsible drug promotion. The campaign is calling on governments and the pharmaceutical industry to ban gifts to doctors, increase transparency in funding of patient groups, and support independent provision of information about healthcare.

4. The Marketing Overdose campaign will be conducting a campaign action photo call at CI World Congress in Australia to highlight the problem of gifts to doctors. The event will take place at 8am on Wednesday 31 October, opposite the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Luna Park, Milsons Point.
To enquire about copies of the report, support material and arrange interviews contact Luke Upchurch [email protected] +44 796 894 9327