Letting the Sunshine In – transparency that’ll grow trust

Murray Stewart, GSK Chief Medical Officer

Murray Stewart, GSK Chief Medical Officer

Transparency for the sake of transparency seems a fruitless endeavor. Done right, however, it can be very powerful in strengthening relationships and forging new partnerships. Tomorrow, CMS will release the 2015 data for pharmaceutical industry payments to healthcare professionals. Now in its third year, the initiative has helped demystify financial connections between these two critically linked health stakeholders. After all, new medicines aren’t possible without collaboration between physicians and pharmaceutical companies. But just seeing dollar figures exchanged between these partners does little to alleviate the heart burn felt by critics who question the ethics behind certain financial connections.

Let’s face it – what’s really required is bigger than just transparency – it’s behavioral change. While physicians must continue to be a key partner with pharmaceutical companies, such as in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines, there are aspects of the relationships that needed to change. And I’m proud that GSK not only recognized this, but acted.

In January of this year, we stopped paying external physicians to speak on our behalf about our medicines and vaccines – the first company in the world to end this long-established industry practice. 

This means we rely on our own medical and scientific expertise to help educate physicians on our products. And as the inventors of our medicines, who better knows our medicines?

Over the last five years, we’ve changed the traditional structure of our commercial relationships around the world.  We no longer provide our sales representatives incentives based on the number of prescriptions generated. We reward our sales teams based on the quality of their interactions with customers and their knowledge. It completely changes the dynamic and helps alleviate ethical concerns.

At the end of the day, it’s important that patients have confidence in the medicines they are prescribed. If industry can address concerns so that patients can focus on getting and being well rather than worrying about trust, the industry should do so.

There are a lot of different views about the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. GSK recently sat down with a number of leading experts to get their perspectives, including Dr. Marty Makary, who is not only a practicing physician, but also an educator affecting change for the next generation of physicians. Watch his perspective and others here.