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Bill would require doctors to declare pharma ‘gifts’

The Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2017 was moved last week in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Deputy Billy Kelleher. He told the Medical Independent (MI) he is “hopeful” that it will proceed through the legislative process and receive Government support.

“Basically, you would have a disclosure list. Medical practitioners — if they got a gift or a service with a value greater than €600 from a company that is involved in pharmaceuticals or medical devices — would just have to declare that with a register with the Medical Council,” Deputy Kelleher told MI. “It is something similar to what TDs do presently in terms of donations.”

He said the purpose was to ensure full transparency, bearing in mind that clinicians have key roles in prescribing, policy development and delivery of healthcare.

Deputy Kelleher said he did not believe such a statutory declaration system would create significant extra workload for the Medical Council, leading to an increase in registration fees.

“I wouldn’t see it as a significant amount of work. Simply, it just means that there would be a statutory obligation to make a declaration. And the Medical Council would have a register to publish that information. It really would not take an awful lot of administrative work.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Kelleher said he tabled the Bill because “some eminent clinicians came to me and expressed concern that the issue of pharmaceutical companies interacting with clinicians, and supporting them in a meaningful way, is becoming more pervasive in Ireland and across the western world”.

Asked about this, Deputy Kelleher told MI: “You have to be conscious and aware [of] the fact that companies are in business for profit as well. I just think that the issue of transparency shouldn’t concern anybody; it should be embraced by everybody. 

“We talk about open disclosure in the context of medical negligence. At the very least we should have open disclosure in the context of gifts or services that are advanced to medical practitioners who may have influential positions in the delivery of healthcare in this country.”

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