UPDATE : Friday, December 13, 2019
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'MSD’s monitoring scheme damaged doctors’ trust in drugmaker’
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2019.04.10 11:49
  • Updated 2019.04.10 15:09
  • comments 0

Physicians who run their clinics went furious with MSD Korea after learning that the company collected doctors’ conversations at product briefing sessions through its “Self-Assurance” monitoring program.

Earlier, Korea Biomedical Review and its sister paper The Korean Doctors’ Weekly published an article saying the company recorded all the talks of physicians in detail.

The Korean unit of the U.S.-based multinational firm tried to calm physicians by saying it traduced the program only to check if their workers kept compliance since the Korean regulator last year mandated pharmaceutical companies to keep records of all the economic benefits given to doctors and pharmacists.

The note on MSD Korea’s invitation card for doctors states, “An observer can attend the product briefing to find any room for improvement and to enhance our employees’ competence. We will do our best to prevent inconvenience by an observer’s visit. We hope you have a good time. Thank you.”

However, clinic owners still appear to hold a grudge against MSD Korea.

According to sources in the community of clinic owners on Tuesday, employees of MSD Korea visited them to explain the issue further and assure them that a similar mishap would not happen.

“I think MSD Korea crossed a boundary. A branch head of the company came to me for an explanation. The company seems to be dealing with the issue aggressively,” a clinic owner said.

The branch head said physicians seemed to have misunderstood about the monitoring program and that the company did not intend to collect such talks. “He said the company would not do such a thing. He had a very cautious attitude and seemed mindful of repercussions,” he said.

Another clinic operator shared a similar story.

“An MSD Korea worker visited me to clarify misunderstandings of the program. The worker said he reported physicians’ talks in a written form, not in an audio file,” the doctor said.

The doctor said he told the MSD Korea worker to apologize. “If a drug salesperson reports doctors’ conversations to the company, which doctor would come to a product briefing? Not a single one,” he added.

Korea Medical Clinic Association President Song Han-seung criticized MSD Korea’s keeping records of physicians’ conversations undermined the trust between doctors and the pharmaceutical company.

“There have been rumors that drug salespersons report physicians’ talks to the pharmaceutical company for some time. This is a serious unethical behavior that violates physicians’ privacy,” Song said.

If a salesperson still has to make notes about doctors’ conversations, he or she should be obliged to notify clients in advance, he said.

“If doctors went to a product briefing without knowing that their personal comments would be shared inside a drugmaker, such monitoring would damage trust between physicians and pharmaceutical firms,” he added.

Even when considering MSD Korea’s stance that it still needs the monitoring on the compliance program, the company should revise the program internally, Song claimed. “Doctors are particularly unhappy because they suspect that the government is watching over them excessively. In this situation, it is unbelievable that a company that sells medicines is monitoring doctors,” he said.

Song worried that excessively strict compliance monitoring might prevent physicians from liberally exchange scholastic views and hurt the quality of medical care.

The Korean Medical Association also said it would pay close attention to how the monitoring issue unfolds.

“The KMA views that MSD Korea’s inappropriate behavior hurt trust between medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies. We will keep a watchful eye on this,” KMA Spokesperson Park Jong-hyuk said.


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