Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed that pharmaceutical companies be banned from sending representatives to visit doctors in order to promote the use of their medicines.
At a meeting on the development of the drugs industry on October 9th 2009, Mr. Putin said, “We should get rid of these so-called pharmaceuticals representatives working in medical institutions.” He claimed that Russia has seen the rise of an “abnormal” interaction between pharmaceutical companies, particularly foreign ones, and the medical community over the past ten years.
In Russia, this form of communication is one of the main ways that companies are able to promote their products, and Mr. Putin’s statement has prompted fears that doctors will have no way of finding out about new medicines on the market. Under the law, prescription drugs can only be advertised in certain publications, which not all doctors are able to access.
Pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated 10-15% of their revenue on representatives, which amounts to around the same as production costs. For foreign companies who do not manufacture in Russia, this proportion can rise to as much as 40-50% of revenue.
Many pharmaceutical companies have hit back at the suggestion, claiming that what they are doing is not unethical or illegal. The head of GlaxoSmithKline in Russia, Fabio Landazabal, commented that representatives are not allowed to give doctors presents or money, and cannot hold entertainment or sport events. The drugmakers also asserted that it is in only isolated cases that doctors are paid for such activity.
Further reading - A detailed analysis of the Russian pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Russia (published September 2009)