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GPs are charging pharmaceutical company representatives for meetings in direct contravention of GMC rules, writes Cato Pedder.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority has criticised three practices for asking £100 a time for attending coffee mornings and lunch meetings, with LMCs claiming the problem 'could be widespread'.

A spokesperson for the GMC said charging drug reps for appointments was against its rules, which state doctors must not 'ask for or accept any inducement, gift or hospitality which may affect or be seen to affect your judgment.'

GPs who ask for payments could be hauled before a Professional Conduct Committee, with the power to censure GPs and even, in theory, strike them off.

GPC members condemned charging as unethical. Dr Charles Simenoff, GPC member and a GP in Manchester, said it was 'beyond the pale'. But he said some drug reps offered inducements for meetings and that he could understand GPs wanting to be recompensed for their time.

Dr Tony Welch, Surrey LMC chief executive, said a local practice had 'fallen foul' of the drug company watchdog within the past two weeks for asking drug reps for money to visit the practice.

'GPs are totally unaware of the GMC rules,' he said. 'This could be widespread because of sheer ignorance.'

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