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Letter to the editor

Editor, – I read with interest the article relating to Medicines Australia and the Committee regarding the monitoring of medications and code of conduct (Aust Prescr 2009;32:160-1). I agree the fines are enormous in terms of Australian standards although perhaps not necessarily so enormous in terms of the earning capacities of the various companies.

I would ask the following:

  1. Who is involved in forming the Code of Conduct?
  2. Who gets a copy of the Code of Conduct?
  3. What happens to the money raised through these fines?
  4. Who is represented on the Board of Medicines Australia?

David Bowman
Consultant Physician
Somerton Park, SA

Author's comments

Dr Brendan Shaw, Chief Executive, Medicines Australia, comments:

Dr Bowman should be assured that the 2010 edition of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct carries appropriate sanctions. The maximum fine for a breach has increased from $200 000 to $300 000.

Importantly, however, non-monetary sanctions are often as strong a disincentive to a company as a fine. Having to send letters of retraction to doctors or take out corrective advertisements in the medical press can have an extremely negative impact on a company's reputation in the eyes of doctors, and serve as an effective deterrent.

Medicines Australia administers the Code of Conduct. An independent Code of Conduct Committee, chaired by a lawyer with extensive experience in trade practices law, adjudicates the complaints. The Committee consists of independent expert representatives of clinical, consumer and regulatory organisations. Details of the full Committee membership can be found on the website at www.medicinesaustralia.com.au/pages/page96.asp.

Medicines Australia reviews and updates the Code every three years to ensure it remains consistent with changing community standards. This is managed by an industry Code of Conduct Review Panel which seeks input from doctors and other healthcare professionals, professional associations, colleges, consumer organisations, patient groups and other groups or individuals who want to contribute. The Code can be found on the Medicines Australia website at www.medicinesaustralia.com.au/pages/page251.asp. Hard copies are available free of charge to anyone upon request.

Revenue from fines raised through Code breaches covers the cost of administering the Code. Excess revenue is directed to a Special Purpose Fund which will be used to fund two initiatives aimed at improving outcomes in indigenous health.

The Board of Medicines Australia consists of an independent chairman and 12 managing directors of member companies, who are elected by the membership.