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GPC demands ethical rules as drug firms link with PCTs

The GPC has reacted with 'many concerns' to claims by GlaxoSmithKline that 50 per cent of PCTs are already working with pharmaceutical companies.

GSK last week presented a radical new vision of primary care as a partnership between PCTs and drug companies and admitted it has plans to work directly with patients.

But GPC members are sceptical about the 'vested interests' of the pharmaceutical giants and while they acknow-ledge private money could bring some benefits to practices, they want a strong ethical framework to protect GP prescribing.

Dr Charles Simenoff, a member of the GPC prescribing sub-committee, said: 'I think it is bordering on unethical. There are issues of bribery and corruption and drug companies making sure that GPs prescribe their products rather than someone else's.'

Fellow sub-committee mem- ber Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the GPC felt an ethical framework was of 'overriding importance', adding: 'The Government is committed to a public-private partnership.'

GSK presented its vision at a Redesigning Chronic Disease Management conference last week, claiming most PCTs were keen to work with drug companies.

But the GPC is alarmed that partnerships with drug companies are escalating without proper discussions about the implications.

The sub-committee discussed a chronic disease management scheme in Haringey involving the PCT, the Department of Health and Pfizer for patients with heart disease and diabetes, after Haringey LMC raised concerns.

North West London strategic health authority, GSK and Pfizer are setting up another scheme across eight PCTs and acute trusts, aiming to improve management of diabetes.

The health authority's diabetes lead Geraint Davies said the private sector was looking at how it could work jointly with the NHS as part of a 'strategic agenda' of partnership working.

In a statement, the prescribing sub-committee expressed nervousness at this agenda – but recognised that partnerships 'could also benefit practices with, for instance, the provision of nursing staff'.

By Cato Pedder

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