AstraZenica to Stop Underwriting International Physician Travel to Meetings

"We have decided that we will no longer pay for doctors to attend international scientific and medical congresses but will instead focus our educational efforts on local educational opportunities for healthcare professionals," said AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan at a conference in Istanbul in May, according to a Reuters report. This makes the drug firm the first to drop the practice of financially assisting foreign physicians who want to attend medical congresses outside of their home countries.

The reason Brennan gave for the policy change is that the company wanted to ensure that it didn’t do anything that could be perceived to be a bribe to get an HCP to prescribe its products, according to the article. The pharma industry has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, something that has further intensified when it comes to cross-border meetings due to investigations triggered by the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K.’s new Bribery Act, which is expected to go into effect in July.

Given this environment, Richard Bergstrom, director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, told Reuters that he anticipates other companies may well follow suit.

What do you think about AstraZenica’s decision to stop funding foreign physician travel to meetings? Will it significantly affect attendance at large U.S.-based meetings? Do you expect other companies will in fact follow suit?

Please leave a comment below, or e-mail some thoughts. I'm thinking that, if a lot of companies do follow AstraZenica's lead, it could put a world of hurt on some of our large national medical association conferences. Not to mention that it would cut off a fairly major source of education for physicians, especially those who come from countries where CME is not as prevalent or well-policed for bias as it is in the U.S.

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