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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Education should be rep-free

From Dr Robert Lambourn

Wooler, Northumberland

Many of the points mentioned in the ABPI code of practice article (Financial, 4 May) have not changed between the 2003 and 2006 versions.

What has changed is that drug firms and doctors (under annex 8 paragraph 3.3 of the 2006/7 revisions to the GMS contract) have to comply with the code, as a result of the Commons Health Committee report of 2005 on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

Perhaps more importantly, doctors must never feel obliged to see representatives in return for education. It is wrong to suggest doctors who do not see representatives should pay their own fees and bring their own sandwiches. This has never been part of the code.

So I would urge doctors and other health professionals to attend sponsored educational meetings but not see reps on the following evidence-based and ethical basis:

· Any suggestion educational meeting sponsorship is dependent on doctors or other health professionals seeing reps contravenes section 15.3 of the ABPI code of practice.

· Promotional costs are built into the cost of drugs ­ in 1994 this was 11 per cent of the cost, or £10,000 per GP per year. This is taxpayers' money, and I feel we have an ethical responsibility to ensure it is used appropriately.

· There is a wealth of evidence supporting the view that contact with pharmaceutical representatives promotes inappropriate prescribing.

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