News Feature | April 1, 2014

Ontario Regulator Seeks To Reform Doctor-Drug Industry Relationship

By Marcus Johnson

The largest medical regulator in Canada, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, has proposed a new ethics policy that would restrict doctors from receiving gifts from pharmaceutical companies. This new policy is part of a larger movement to reform and re-establish industry-physician relationships, The National Post says.

In accordance with this new policy, physicians would also be restricted from promoting pharmaceutical products to other doctors. Physicians are also not allowed to be named as authors on studies that were “ghostwritten” by pharmaceutical companies.

The Ontario regulator says these policies may become more exact as they begin to receive feedback. However, standards have become much tougher, Dr. Marc Gabel, president of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, tells the National Post. According to Gabel, “We are going beyond the current environment,” said Gabel. “When we talk about gifts or things of value … we’re saying ‘No, you should not accept them anymore.’ We are moving the posts here.”

Regulatory bodies and pharmaceutical companies have already started making some of the changes that would become mandatory under the new proposal. Last year, one leading drug firm stated that it will be lowering the amount of money spent on marketing products toward doctors.

In addition, the US has already ordered the industry to disclose details about payments made to individual physicians.

However, despite these changes some argue that these new policies are unlikely to halt the industry’s influence on doctors. Arthur Schafer, who works as an ethics professor at the University of Manitoba, believes that the response is 'half hearted.' According to Schafer, “I don't see what they've done as a crackdown, I see it as a whitewash.”