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The Baycol / Lipobay - Scandal

Are our doctors open to bribes? For every 25 new patients, the doctors gets a luxury trip

BERLIN (Bild-Zeitung / August 17, 2001) - Grim suspicions about German doctors in the scandal over the drug Lipobay. The pharmaceuticals group Bayer is alleged to have bribed doctors with luxury trips, to persuade them to prescribe the anti-cholesterol drug to their patients, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The report says that in the spring of 1999, Bayer promised doctors a trip on the Orient Express if they prescribed Lipobay for at least 25 patients. In Germany alone, the pill has been linked to at least seven deaths.

Have German doctors been irresponsibly prescribing the pill Libobay to their patients? Did they even allow themselves to be seduced into writing prescriptions by offers of free holidays?

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that physicians used copies of prescriptions to show that they had put patients onto Lipobay. As payment, they were invited for a trip on the luxury train the Orient Express by the Leverkusen-based drugs giant. Bayer claims the train trip was an "information event for southern German doctors".

Prescriptions in exchange for presents - do German doctors take bribes from the pharmaceutical industry?

The drug reviewer Dr. Ellis Huber, ex-President of the Berliner Ärztekammer (Medical Practitioners' Board) says: "Yes. Doctors' training or their journals are usually paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. Many drug companies also try to influence doctors with pleasure trips."

Doctor's goodwill vs. luxury - BILD has discovered other examples:

  • In June 2000, a drug company invited about 40 German rheumatologists to Nice. They and their partners were put up in the finest hotels; sightseeing tours and luxurious gala dinners were thrown in. The official reason: participation in a "European rheumatology congress". Sole obligatory date: a three-hour symposium on the medication, given by the host company.
  • In the autumn of 2000, another company took at least 100 dermatologists and their spouses for a weekend at Berlin's luxury Adlon hotel. Generous programme of entertainment (opera, river cruise), short seminar programme in morning about products of the pharmaceuticals group.

And the pharmaceutical giants have other inducements to offer our doctors:

  • Payments for so-called "administration observations", whereby drugs salespeople try to persuade the doctors into "trials". The only aim is that the drug should be prescribed to as many patients as possible. For each "study report", the doctor receives DM 100 to 300.
  • Bonus systems: another company promises doctors that anyone treating a large number of patients with the firm's products will receive bonus points. Depending on the points total, there are family holidays (Tenerife, Hong Kong) or test drives in BMW or Mercedes cars.

Meanwhile, the Federal Health Ministry is threatening to fine Bayer DM 50,000 because the group has infringed notification requirements. A study for the Ministry, dated 15th June, indicating an increasing occurrence of Lipobay side-effects was only passed on by Bayer to the Medicines Institute at the beginning of August, after withdrawal of the drug.

How Bayer bribed the doctors. They were to prescribe the scandal drug Lipobay as often as possible and take part in "use observations". For every patient taking Lipobay, there was an attractive bonus.

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