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South African patients are oblivious of the hidden hand of the pharmaceutical industry, which every year pays millions of rand in speakers’ fees, free meals and research grants to doctors and research institutions. There is no legal requirement for the companies to reveal the perks they give to medical professionals, nor are they willing to volunteer the information. In contrast, US law requires these same firms to publicly disclose their payments to doctors and teaching hospitals. They do so voluntarily in the UK as part of a Europe-wide move towards greater transparency, as well as in Japan and Australia. The lack of disclosure in this country leaves consumers in the dark about whether drug companies may be inappropriately influencing the prescribing habits of doctors. Nor do they know what conflicts of interest the experts may experience who advise the Medicines Control Council (MCC) whether or not to allow drugs onto the market, or those who draw up treatment guidelines for dise...

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