Anyone who thought that the 'gifts' from pharmaceutical companies to doctors was a thing of the past needs to think again.
A new scandal has come to light in Germany, involving thousands of doctors at around 100 public hospitals. The doctors are accused of accepting money and gifts from SmithKline Beecham, the UK drugs giant that recently merged with Glaxo Wellcome.
The allegations, covering a period from 1997 to 1999, before the merger, involve gifts of cars, computers and paid trips. Some of the cash sums are small, but the largest one amounts to around lb15,000.
Some of the cases involving very small amounts of money have been dropped, but the German regulatory authorities are still investigating allegations against 100 doctors in Bavaria and 400 SmithKline Beecham employees.
A spokesman for Transparency International, a public affairs watchdog group in Germany, is not surprised by the allegations. 'This is a normal practice in the drug industry' (Lancet, 2002; 359: 1039).