The German Medical Association has investigated just under 1,000 doctors suspected of corruption over the past few years, head of the association Frank Ulrich Montgomery told Der Spiegel news magazine.
Over half of the investigations concerned doctors accused of accepting bribes from Israeli-owned pharmaceutical Ratiopharm in exchange for prescribing their patients the firm's drugs – something Montgomery said was “clearly prohibited” under professional codes of practice.
“The Medical Association punished 163 Ratiopharm doctors after state prosecutors made the files available to us,” said Montogomery, who called for a change in the law to encourage this kind of cooperation enforcing professional law for doctors.
Montgomery also demanded more investigative powers for the Medical Association itself, so that it could “conduct searches very early on and confiscate files.”
But statutory health insurance companies said on Sunday they would oppose more powers for the professional association and demanded that politicians intervene.
“Corruption is not a minor offence which doctors can regulate amongst themselves” said Florian Lanz, spokesman of the GKV National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds."When the medical association demands police powers it has to be an alarm call for legislators,” he added.
Montgomery's comments confirming the scale of corruption among doctors came after a series of embarrassing revelations about doctors accepting bribes and manipulating waiting lists, which kick-started a debate about whether a new law is needed to reinforce doctors' ethics.
Montgomery said he regretted the damage the recent debate had had on the profession's image. “This ongoing corruption debate is a thorn in our flesh which is massively damaging the reputation of my profession,” he told the magazine.