Two panels of the German Federal Supreme Court have recently referred cases to the full court that may result in licensed doctors-in-residence (Vertragsärzte) being subject to personal criminal liability for accepting inducements or incentives from drug and device manufacturers. The potential liability would stem from anticorruption statutes targeted at public officials or, in the alternative, from statutes criminalizing corrupt business activities. Such liability would then extend to any company representatives involved.
To date in Germany, only public hospitals have been exposed to criminal liability under these theories. By contrast, doctors-in-residence so far have been considered neither public officials nor business affiliates of the public health insurance organizations. If this assessment changes, however, both doctors-in-residence and companies will be exposed to enforcement by public prosecutors and police authorities. Currently, enforcement is conducted by professional organizations (for doctors) and by supervisory authorities (for companies). The decision of the full court is expected in 2012.