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Promotions to healthcare professionals within the electronic health record are permitted, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) stated.
However, advertising must adhere to the IPHA Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry and the Medicinal Products Control of Advertising Regulation 2007.
The Association clarified the position after grave concerns were raised about advertising appearing within GP practice management systems at the point of issuing a patient prescription.
Dublin GP and lecturer Dr Mark Murphy first raised the issue when he tweeted, “I see pharmaceutical advertising within the electronic health record, to suggest I prescribe a different product. How is this allowed?!”
In another tweet, he wrote: “It is particularly troublesome and inappropriate, in my opinion. A boundary which should not be crossed.”
Dr Murphy later tweeted that the promotion appeared on a Socrates software system, which is owned by the Clanwilliam Group. Socrates software systems are used every day by millions of Irish healthcare professionals, such as GPs and consultants, according to socrates.ie.
Dublin GP Dr William Behan stated on Twitter that another system does not engage in such activity due to close ties between “ownership/development/front-line clinical general practice”.
Many healthcare professionals, based in Ireland and internationally, expressed concern at the activity.
One GP wrote: “What a distraction in a consultation. Disheartened that regulators/quangos/laws permit this. If public and patients became aware, imagine they would be outraged.”
The Twitter account of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australia tweeted: “How could it be allowed to happen? Needs investigation of the governance of the EHR content.”
An IPHA spokesperson outlined that it is up to the company to ensure advertising adheres to regulations, “and then if we receive a complaint, we investigate this”.
“The IPHA Code Council investigates complaints… This Code Council investigates possible breaches to the code if it receives a complaint. Companies watch the activities of other companies and make complaints and we also get complaints from healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, etc) and members of the public. The IPHA staff can also make complaints. But no, we don’t actively have a process of reviewing journals, newspapers, etc.”
A spokesperson for Clanwilliam Health told this newspaper that the company fully adheres to the terms and conditions set out for each user of its GP practice management software service.
“No complaint in relation to our information alerts has been received by the company,” according to the spokesperson.
“We are aware, however, that there has been a reference to our service via social media. We will be in touch with the individual directly on the matter. Clanwilliam Health operates a customer support line that can be accessed by our GP partners at any time if they have any queries or issues.”