Codes of conduct and prevention of conflicts of interest

Codes of conduct for physicians date back as far as the Hippocratic Oath. Raising ethical standards among health professionals, including regulators, medical practitioners, pharmacists and health administrators can be done through the promotion of codes of conduct combined with ethical training across the health system. These codes can be developed by professional bodies, such as doctors’ associations, or published by health ministries. They should cover the prevention of conflicts of interest, provide for effective and dissuasive sanctions for breaches of the code and include enforcement mechanisms overseen by an independent body. Sanctions for non-compliance can range from debarment from practising and temporary or permanent revocation of licences to fines and criminal sanctions. 

It is also important that pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies commit to refraining from bribery, adopt and enforce robust anti-corruption programmes and policies such as Transparency International’s Business Principles for Countering Bribery. Codes of conduct should disqualify individuals or groups with interests in the manufacturer from participating in clinical drug trials. Similarly, regulators and medical licensing authorities need to define specific conflict of interest rules for physicians, regulate the promotion of medicines, restrict the ability of doctors to overprescribe drugs, and ensure closer monitoring of relationships between health departments and the pharmaceutical industry.[1]



Iñaki Albisu Ardigó; Marie Chêne


Matthew Jenkins

Contributing experts:

Umrbek Allakulov (Water Integrity Network)

Shaazka Beyerle (US Institute of Peace)

Simone Bloem (Center for Applied Policy)

Claire Grandadam (Water Integrity Network)

Jacques Hallak (Jules Verne University – Amiens)

Mihaylo Milovanovitch (Centre For Applied Policy)

Muriel Poisson (International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO)

Juanita Riano (Inter-American Development Bank)

Marc Y. Tassé (Canadian Centre of Excellence for Anti-Corruption)

Vítězslav Titl (University of Siegen)

Davide Torsello (Central European University Business School)

Patty Zakaria (Royal Roads University)



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