National Health Services Docs May Face Jail Time over Big Pharma Gifts

Professional TrainingChampagne Jacuzzis and all-expense paid trips for NHS officials—Courtesy of Big Pharma Advisory boards or bribery boards? UK National Health Service (NHS) doctors in trouble over Big Pharma ties

In a world increasingly infiltrated by corporate money at every conceivable level, it’s safer to assume that someone somewhere has been paid off in any given situation. The greasing of palms and the bestowing of favors is of course an age-old tradition, and it’s probably not going away anytime soon,

But every now and then the greed on the part of those receiving the bribes and the sloppiness of those giving the bribes just becomes too much for the public to stomach, despite the institutionalized nature of the practice.

Hence we come to the sordid little tale of the UK’s National Health Services managers and the drug companies seeking lucrative contracts with them.

Following a series of explosive stories last year detailing lavish all-expense paid trips put on by drug companies for the NHS managers in high-end resort towns around the world, the NHS has announced they are cracking down on the practice of pharmaceutical companies giving gifts to high-ranking NHS managers–with severe consequences in the offing.

Going forward, senior medical staff must declare all gifts and hospitality they receive from drug companies or face being fired and even jail time.

All hospitals and doctors’ groups will be required to keep a record of hospitality and gifts from pharmaceutical firms to health service staff, the idea being that airing such sordid practices for all to see should discourage them somewhat.

But the institutionalized bribery has been well worth it thus far for Big Pharma. The NHS buys nearly $10 billion worth of drugs every each year, meaning that the taxpayer-funded health service is a lucrative, ongoing business opportunity for drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers.

And with all that money floating around, the temptation has been entirely too much for some NHS staff to handle. Some NHS managers were found to have charged up to £15,000 or over $20,000 USD to set up “advisory board” meetings for drug manufacturers, which somehow always ended up taking place at luxury hotels in far-flung places around the world.

For his part, British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was shocked–shocked!–to hear about such goings-on at the NHS, despite evidence coming to light that as many as 65 drug reps were on site at a single hospital at one time.

But it’s difficult to take Hunt’s disgust with Big Pharma too seriously as his NHS is in talks with several private healthcare companies about privatizing services. The NHS has already awarded a $180 million contract to Richard Branson’s Virgin Care to take over several NHS hospitals, and medical care giant KPMG has been in talks with Hunt and the NHS since last June, seeking to turn the national service into a US-style privatized service.

There’s that corporate money again. Surprise, surprise. No wonder Secretary Hunt was shocked!

But at least NHS officials will now have to keep a record of the bribes they receive, so everything’s okay. Right? Training

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