A medical colleague of mine, speaking at a conference in London recently, was cross-examined by people from other companies on the changes that GSK is making to its business model.
The questions during the conference session, and the conversations afterwards, reflected a mix of reactions to our presentation of GSK’s changes that ranged from scepticism to disbelief about the stance we are taking. Fears were expressed that no healthcare professional would ever come to meeting without paid clinician speakers and that our competitors will ignore what we are doing, change nothing and take advantage of any opportunities that GSK is creating for them
Our argument is that the best people to talk about GSK products are GSK people. Meetings are still happening and some leading speakers have decided that the opportunities we create for them to share new information with their clinical colleagues are too valuable to turn down just because we cannot pay them.
What was not challenged at the conference was the evidence of opinion polling we had commissioned that patients want the relationship between industry and healthcare professionals to be more transparent and less open to perceptions of conflict of interest. Also, no delegate questioned the need for the relationship between representatives to be about sharing knowledge not the number of items sold.
I would argue that the introduction of our new business model is the latest step in the evolution of how we operate driven by our belief in transparency. We were, for instance, the first to publish a clinical study register of all our research more than a decade ago. More recently we became the first major pharmaceutical company to sign up to the AllTrials clinical transparency campaign.
So the question is whether others will follow GSK’s lead.
The indications are that some will. Perhaps they will be encouraged by the professional organisations, journal editors and policymakers we have spoken to who tell us that GSK’s approach is the right one.
We do not pretend to have all the answers and cannot necessarily predict what the next step in the evolution of our relationship with healthcare professionals will be. Some commentators say we haven’t gone nearly far enough. Others have told us that the publication of the names of recipients of payments from industry next year will have a dramatic effect on the landscape and that it will be healthcare professional themselves who will take over as the drivers of change.
I would encourage other companies to follow suit. After all, as my colleague told that conference: “You don't make a difference if you realise that things need to be changed without being willing to make those changes”.
By Matt Boom, National Sales Director, GSK UK Pharmaceuticals.