Irish council nixes pharma-funded trips for doctors

Forget pharma-funded travel for doctors in Ireland. The country's Medical Council clarified its ethics guidelines to prohibit drug companies from sending doctors to medical meetings, citing a shift toward international norms.

As the Irish Times reports, the Ethics Guide says doctors should not accept "direct hospitality" from the industry, to make sure that "their professional judgment is not affected by the hospitality." Companies can, however, help finance doctors' trips to conferences, but only via grants to the groups that host the meetings. The idea is to prevent companies from earmarking hospitality funds for particular doctors' travel, the Times says.

It's just the latest tweak to conflicts-of-interest policies among professional groups, healthcare institutions and medical schools. Over the past several years, the debate over pharma's financial relationships with doctors has intensified, partly because of some high-profile undisclosed payments to prominent physicians and researchers. Companies have started posting information about those relationships, and the Affordable Care Act requires that all drugmakers do so beginning in 2014.

Dr. Deirdre Madden, chairman of the Irish Medical Council's ethics committee, told the Times that the latest move reflects a cultural shift and that it brings Ireland up to speed with international practices. "There is research to support the fact that doctors are influenced by even low-value practice aids," Madden told the newspaper.

- read the Times piece