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The Associated Press, Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – British drug maker PLC (NYSE: GSK) is making major changes in its spending on training programs for doctors, fees paid to doctors for consulting, and even political contributions.

The changes include immediate bans on all corporate political contributions and on using commercial medical education and communication companies to run programs teaching doctors about medical treatments.

Those programs often promote a drug maker’s new, generally expensive drug and give little information about its risks or how well it compares to older, cheaper drugs.

The moves come as congressional investigators, consumer groups and the media ratchet up criticism over the increasing influence drug and medical device makers wield over the practice of medicine.

"GSK will not support as many medical education programs, but we will continue funding those with the greatest potential to improve patient health," said Deirdre Connelly, GSK’s president of North America Pharmaceuticals. "Continuing medical education offers healthcare professionals important information on disease prevention, diagnosis and management. Independent and balanced information on the latest discoveries about disease and treatment options helps healthcare professionals make higher quality decisions and achieve better patient health outcomes."

GSK maintains its U.S. headquarters in RTP.

In its announcement, GSK spelled out its efforts to provide more public awareness of its programs:

  • "Reporting fees paid to US healthcare professionals for speaker and advisory services on the company’s website. GSK pays healthcare professionals for their time and services when they speak at GSK-sponsored meetings and when they provide consultancy services such as serving on an advisory board. The first report of fees paid from April 2009 will be published in the fourth quarter of 2009.
  • Publicly disclosing research payments to healthcare professionals and institutions. This will start in 2010 with payments to US healthcare professionals and institutions for conduct of clinical trials. Thereafter it will be extended to payments for other types of research and to healthcare professionals and institutions outside the US.
  • Publishing all clinical research results in the scientific literature. GSK will publish all our clinical research of GSK medicines either as manuscripts in peer reviewed journals or, when studies are not published, provide context and interpretation via the GSK Clinical Study Register on the internet to supplement the result summaries which are currently posted.
  • Reporting clinical trial investigator names and institutions. Since January 2009, the company has published the names of investigators participating in GSK-sponsored clinical trials, together with the institutions they are working in, as part of the registers of clinical trial protocols for studies.
  • Stopping all corporate political contributions globally. In the past, GSK — in common with many companies and in full compliance with local laws — has made a number of corporate political contributions in countries such as the US and Canada. GSK’s current policy no longer allows such contributions"