A roundtable, organised last month by Pharmadisclosure.eu, the multi-stakeholder initiative supported by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has revealed how the pharmaceutical industry will be expected to adapt to a culture of transparency in line with changing societal expectations.
The event, entitled “Going Live: Implementation of the Disclosure Code” took place on the 29th of January in Rotterdam and aimed to educate representatives of doctors, patients and the pharmaceutical industry on how to comply with EFPIA’s Transparency Code.
Discussions at the roundtable, hosted by Nefarma (EFPIA’s Dutch association) focused on the next steps for implementing the Code. From the beginning of 2015, European pharma companies have been recording payments made to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and healthcare organisations (HCOs). However, as EFPIA explain “there is still considerable work to be completed in the course of 2015, in order that member companies and national associations are ready to comply with the code.”
The event forms part of EFPIA’s ‘Responsible Transparency Initiative’, a public information campaign launched to prepare for compliance with the new Disclosure Code. In the opening session, entitled ‘Financial disclosure and public policy’, Lode Wigersma, former Director of the Royal Dutch Medical Association and Vice Chair of Strichting CGR (The Foundation for the Code for Pharmaceutical Advertising) gave an insight into how the Netherlands has already mastered payment disclosure through self-regulation. According to Wigersma, an extensive public relations campaign to promote the Code prior to its implementation was seen as a key to success. The latest polls in the country had recently shown that 80% of doctors viewed the initiative positively.
The session also highlighted the need for the general public to be given clear information about what payments are used for – so that they can be placed in context. Indeed many payments can strengthen relationships, inform doctors and improve patient care.
Another important issue raised concerned data protection laws: since the code is voluntary, consent must be given before data is published. According to Anne Britta Haas, Counsel at the law firm Clifford Chance in Germany, since the EFPIA Code is voluntary, it does not provide a legal basis for disclosure. “In other words, unless there is a formal law requiring disclosure, you need individual consent, given freely” she told participants. This is particularly important in the light of a new EU Data Protection Regulation, which is currently being drawn up. Applicable across Europe, the law could fine companies up to 100 million euros or 5 percent of their turnover (whichever is greater) for transgressions.
Andy Powrie-Smith, Communications Director at EFPIA, raised a salient point on how the medical profession will need to adapt to the changes in our modern culture, which expect openness and transparency. According to Powrie-Smith “Transparency is not a comment on the past: it’s about preparing the relationship between the industry and healthcare professionals for the future.”
Ruth Knowles is a freelance science writer who has written articles and press releases on a range of life science and health topics. She received her MSc in Science Communication from the University of the West of England, Bristol.