Last year, doctors and health care workers received a total of 106 million SEK in fees from pharmaceutical companies, according to a compilation by Lif, the trade organization of research-based pharmaceutical companies. An expert points out that this could be in direct conflict with the constitutional requirement for impartiality.
Some doctors have received hundreds of thousands of kronor over several years, according to Swedish state radio program Kaliber, which chose to investigate fees from the company Novo Nordisk, which makes the diabetes and obesity drug Ozempic. The money is not allocated for research grants, but is distributed after completing some form of assignment, such as being a consultant or lecturer.
Doctors contacted by the program say that their assignments contribute to important continuing education and that the assignments are reported to the employer as outside work, with compensation strictly regulated.
Patrik Bremdal, an associate professor of constitutional law, points out that the payment of fees to doctors may be in conflict with the law. This refers to the constitutional requirement of impartiality in public service. He points out that there may be a conflict of interest if doctors receive fees from a company whose drugs they prescribe to their patients.
– This is in violation of Sweden’s basic laws and, if serious enough, could constitute professional misconduct, Bremdal says.
Industry association satisfied with regulations
– Then the suspicion can arise that this doctor, right or wrong, it doesn’t matter, but the suspicion can be there that this person favors this pharmaceutical company, he continues.
However, Linda Melkersson, Lif’s chief legal officer, says she feels comfortable with the current regulations.
– Yes, I feel secure with our regulations and with such an audit; it’s nothing we would worry about, she says.
Novo Nordisk emphasizes that it operates in accordance with existing regulations and stresses the importance of its cooperation with the health care system.