MSD Korea’s “Self-Assurance” program, recording conversations of doctors at a product briefing as part of its compliance monitoring, might be illegal, experts said.
The Korean offshoot of the U.S.-based drugmaker said it had received the consent of participating physicians in advance or at the scene. However, the company’s personal information consent form and the personal information processing policy did not include any clause mentioning the company’s possible collection and storage of doctors’ talks.
MSD Korea’s collecting and recording personal conversations of physicians on the pretext of providing a product briefing could be illegal in terms of intrusion of privacy and freedom, legal experts noted.
Lee Dong-pil, a lawyer at law firm UiSung, said although MSD Korea secured the physicians’ consent on its monitoring of product briefings and academic events, it was to confirm its employees were operating the events appropriately. “The monitoring program should be minimally done, only just to check if workers were holding product briefings or academic meetings properly,” Lee said.
Korea Biomedical Review checked the consent form online and found that it requested a doctor’s name, contact number, and affiliation. It did not have any explanation that the company might record a doctor’s comments during a product briefing.
At the bottom of MSD Korea’s website, the company says it entrusts personal information processing service to its contract firm “COMIM” and the service includes “design, homepage management, and monitoring related with event coordinating.”
|MSD Korea’s personal information processing policy shown at the bottom of its website says its contract firm “COMIN” is managing “design, homepage management, event coordinating-related monitoring.”
MSD Korea was the only one among over 20 multinational pharmaceuticals operating in Korea that revealed the name of the contractor on event monitoring in the personal information processing policy.
However, physicians were skeptical whether they would sign a consent form if it included not only names and contacts but an additional note that MSD Korea might record their conversations at a product briefing.
After KBR’s news reports on MSD Korea’s excessive monitoring controversy, many doctors commented that they would not have attended the company’s product briefings if the company had given them a notice that their conversations were being filed.
“If a pharmaceutical salesperson reports what doctors talked about, which doctor would want to attend the event? If I had known it in advance, I would never have joined. I feel very intimidated,” a clinic owner physician said.
MSD Korea said it did not run the monitoring program on all of the product briefings but did so randomly. It added that it would come up with measures to improve the situation as soon as possible.
However, over a month has passed since KBR reported on the company’s recording of doctors’ talks and the company has not provided any measure to date.
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