Corruption can take various forms, including frank bribery and the corruption of knowledge. Prominent in the health field is corruption associated with the pharmaceutical industry. This can impair true freedom to choose optimal therapeutic strategies by misrepresenting less qualified yet more expensive (“pseudo‐innovative”) products, resulting in increased expenditures without improvement in the quality, efficacy or safety of the health care supplied. Promotion of products is legitimate, but the border to corruption is not easily discernible and is readily violated. Senior management within the pharmaceutical industry has to become aware of the destructive consequences of corruptive and other improper promotional activities and be prepared to fight them through implementing Codes of Conduct.
Medical health care professionals are the main targets for corrupt practices on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. They need to be sensitized against disinformation and material influences which can impede professional care. Professional and self‐governing institutions have to develop Codes of Conduct and strategies to guarantee transparency and the independence of advisory functions.
National legislation should be promoted to create or extend anti‐corruption law to members of professional medical societies or self‐governing bodies in health care. Governments should recognize the need for patients' participation and public control at all levels of health care systems, also in the so‐called private sector, and establish the necessary legal framework.