UPDATE 1-GlaxoSmithKline to stop paying doctors to promote drugs
* GSK scrapping doctor payments for speaking engagements
* Ending sales reps' targets globally following U.S. move
* Comes amid criticism of aggressive industry sales tactics
LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline said on Tuesday it would stop paying doctors to promote its products through speaking engagements and end linking compensation for its sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write.
It also plans to stop payments to healthcare professionals for attending medical conferences.
The initiative marks a first for the global pharmaceuticals industry and represents a bid by Britain's biggest drugmaker to get ahead of its critics, after being embroiled in a damaging corruption scandal in China this year.
The entire drugs industry has been under fire for aggressive marketing tactics in recent years and in the United States many companies, including GSK, have been fined billions of dollars for improper sales tactics.
A number of other firms have taken steps to clean up their marketing practices - AstraZeneca, for example, said in 2011 it was scrapping payments for doctors to attend international congresses - but GSK's actions go further.
"We recognise that we have an important role to play in providing doctors with information about our medicines, but this must be done clearly, transparently and without any perception of conflict of interest," Chief Executive Andrew Witty said in a statement.
The decision to stop payments to doctors for speaking about medicines during meetings with other prescribers marks a big shift for a global industry that has always relied heavily on the influence of experts in promoting products.
GSK said it aimed to implement this move and a related measure to end paying for doctors to attend medical conferences by the start of 2016.
The shift in payments to its sales representatives will be implemented faster, following a successful test-run in the United States, where payments have been decoupled from the number of prescriptions generated since 2011.
The policy of ending individual sales targets will now be rolled out globally. GSK said it planned to implement the new compensation system in all countries by early 2015.