How transparent are your relations with pharma?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Transparency in how decisions are made, and in interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and patient community, are crucial for building trust and openness, and every stakeholder must play their part.

Back in February this year, two representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited IAPO to hear our thoughts on the Council’s draft resolution and background papers looking public health, the interests of patients, regulators, governments and payers, and the pharmaceutical and research industry.

This may sound dry; however the impact on patients of these discussions and the thinking behind them is strongly linked to key issues including the ability to access new and effective medicines, at an affordable price for health systems and individuals.

Transparency in decisions, funding and partnerships

One of the key areas for discussion was how to ensure that patients’ groups and others who represent and support patients are not unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry – so it is not just about pharmaceutical companies needing to improve practice, everyone needs to take responsibility and play a role in improving transparency and openness.

Transparency in how decisions are made and the interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and the patient community is crucial to building trust and openness, and every stakeholder must play their part. At IAPO we have standards for industry partners, and a framework for ethical collaboration. Every decision we make about collaboration and involvement is carefully considered in line with our standards. How do you ensure that you retain independence and a strong patient voice when collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry? Can interested people access information on your policies for action, and on your partnerships and funding easily? This should, for example mean that your latest report and accounts (including details of funding) are accessible within two clicks from the front page of your website – worth checking!

Conflict of interest?

PACE rapporteur Ms Maury Pasquier describes in more detail the background and importance of this resolution across transparency, protecting against conflict of interest and improving access: 

“...In recent years, only a few medicines with a real therapeutic benefit have come onto the market, some of which are sold at prohibitive prices. In terms of public health, this is far from optimal. Measures should therefore be taken with a view to gearing the system to public health needs, including by adopting stricter marketing authorisation policies, by ensuring full transparency regarding the real costs of research and development and, where necessary, by having recourse to mandatory licensing. The industry’s interactions with health-sector stakeholders should also be better regulated, as they may lead to conflicts of interest and biased decisions”.

The draft resolution ‘Public health and the interests of the pharmaceutical industry: how to guarantee the primacy of public health interests?’ was unanimously adopted by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, of PACE on 11 September. The resolution was debated by PACE at the end of September. We will be keeping an eye out for the final outcome and headlines from the discussion, and recommend that if you are based in Europe you keep an eye out for it too.

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