Efforts by pharmaceutical industry to self-regulate

Professor Chong Siow Ann's commentary on his interaction with pharmaceutical companies provided an interesting read (The siren call of the drug industry; Nov 21).

However, he did not mention self-regulation in the pharmaceutical industry.

Most major pharmaceutical companies are members of the Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (Sapi), which has strict rules about how the industry markets its products.

Unlike the sponsored trip described by Prof Chong - where he was flown business-class to a neighbouring country to speak at a meeting at a lakeside five-star hotel - Sapi's code stipulates that there are limitations on venues for educational activities sponsored by pharmaceutical firms.

Venues for such pharma-sponsored medical educational activities must not be held at extravagant locations, or facilities renowned for leisure and entertainment.

Sapi also rules that members should provide only economy-class tickets for air travel of less than six hours. This rule applies to both attendees as well as speakers for the events.

I have observed that Sapi rules have become stricter over the last two decades. This is a good effort by the pharmaceutical industry at self-regulation.

In addition, most pharmaceutical companies hire their own compliance officers to ensure that their sales and marketing staff abide by the Sapi rules.

Lastly, there are also the Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines set by the Singapore Medical Council, which set rules on doctors' participation in industry-sponsored medical educational activities.

The public should not have unnecessary doubts on the integrity of their doctors.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Efforts by pharmaceutical industry to self-regulate'. Print Edition | Subscribe