Pharmaceutical companies’ offering of illicit rebates to physicians have decreased, but “economic benefits” given to doctors for academic conferences and product briefings have increased during the past four years, a lawmaker said.
Rep. Kim Seung-hee of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party released the analysis on pharmaceutical companies’ provision of economic benefits for physicians under the fair competition rules between 2015 and 2018, based on the data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
According to Kim, the number of illicit rebates by pharmaceutical firms shot up from 30 in 2015 to 96 in 2016, but rapidly fell to 35 in 2017, and further down to 27 in 2018.
However, bribing doctors by medical device makers rose from two in 2015 to eight in 2016 to six in 2017, and 16 in 2018.
The amount of bribery to doctors by pharmaceuticals gradually declined from 22 billion won ($18.3 million) in 2016 to 13 billion won in 2017, and to 3.7 billion won in 2018. In contrast, those by medical device companies jumped from 300 million won in 2015 to 800 million won in 2016, to 22.8 billion won in 2017 and 12.8 billion won in 2018.
Economic benefits given to physicians from pharmaceutical companies have climbed from 2015 to 2018.
Economic benefits are financial support that the pharmaceutical and medical device industry provides for doctors. They include expenses for academic events, donations, and product briefings. Pharmaceutical companies must submit the report of economic benefits to the authorities.
Pharmaceuticals’ provision of economic benefits has been on a steady rise, from 197.9 billion won in 2015 to 220.8 billion won in 2016, to 240.7 billion won in 2017, and to 310.7 billion won in 2018.
Medical equipment manufacturers’ offering of economic benefits slid from 17.7 billion won in 2015 to 17 billion won in 2016 but increased to 20.9 billion won in 2017 and to 24.9 billion won in 2018.
By type, pharmaceutical companies gave 363 billion won benefits through product briefings, 275.9 billion won through exhibitions and advertisements, and 245.5 billion won through donations.
Medical device manufacturers offered 54.5 billion won through product briefings, 23.2 billion won through academic events, and 2.9 billion won through donations.
Among the 100 largest pharmaceutical companies by sales, 13 did not report the offering of economic benefits to the authorities. Among the 13 companies, three were within the top 30 firms.
“We have fair competition rules to prevent illegal rebates and to ensure that drugs and medical devices are distributed in a fair market order. However, major companies still do not keep the rules,” Kim said. “To root out illicit rebates, large companies should take the initiative in actively reporting their provision of economic benefits.”
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