Ukraine is the latest Eastern European country to commit itself to improving transparency when it comes to the interactions between doctors and pharmaceutical companies. A ‘Letter of Intent’ for reform of Ukraine’s healthcare system, signed with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), has listed the disclosure of transfers of value to healthcare professionals as one of its main objectives. The move forms part of a bigger pledge to bring the country’s healthcare in line with the rest of Europe.
In the Letter of Intent, the pharmaceutical industry agrees to assist the Ukrainian government in advancing healthcare reform in Ukraine, by supporting the harmonisation of pharmaceutical legislation with EU legislation. This also commits Ukraine to more stable and transparent business conditions, of which the disclosure of payment data to doctors plays an important part.
The signatories, including Ukrainian Health Minister, Oleksandr Kvitashvili, EFPIA Director General, Richard Bergström and the Ukraine’s Association of Pharmaceutical Research and Development’s (APRaD) Executive Director, Volodymyr Redko, have agreed that the Letter of Intent will eventually be transformed by June 2015 into a more comprehensive Framework Agreement on Cooperation for the period 2015 to 2017.
Disclosure translates into benefits for patients
A rapid and complete implementation of the pharmaceutical industry’s self-regulatory code for the disclose transfers of value to healthcare professionals is listed as the second the main objective in the document, which means that within the next couple of years Ukraine will begin publishing the individual payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors.
This massive leap forward for the country will be achieved by using EFPIA’s expertise and drawing on the valuable and successful experiences of other Eastern European countries, such as Lithuania and Hungary. The ‘systematic’ and ‘qualitative’ reforms in the Ukrainian healthcare system that the changes are purported to bring will hopefully translate into real benefits for patients. EFPIA Director General Richard Bergström agrees: “This is an important step. The patients of Ukraine will benefit from a more collaborative spirit between the pharmaceutical industry and the government of Ukraine”.
Hungary and Lithuania as role models
Hungary began moves towards transparency in 1995 with its ‘Code of Ethics for Pharmaceutical Marketing Communication’. Updated in 2012, the Code now sits alongside the ‘Transparency Code’, developed in 2013 by the Hungarian Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AIPM). This disclosure code matches the requirements of the EFPIA ‘Code on the disclosure of transfers of value from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations’, which means that transfers of value carried out in 2015 will be published by 2016.
The Transparency Code will help to boost trust and confidence in the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies; where transfers of value are seen as a way to improve patient outcomes as well as increase the training and expertise of doctors. According to the AIPM, “The cooperation between the pharmaceutical industry and doctors offers a broad spectrum of patients the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives and suppress their symptoms using increasingly customized smart drugs, new therapies or diagnostic options. Due to the permanent lack of financial resources in the Hungarian health sector, sponsoring by the pharmaceutical industry is of primary importance to provide professional development opportunities and attendance at international and Hungarian science conferences.”
Lithuania also joins forces with EFPIA
The Letter of Intent from Ukraine echoes the moves made last year by Lithuania to also draw on EFPIA’s expertise. In July 2014, the signing of a ‘Joint Working Agreement’ created a partnership between the Lithuanian Ministry of Health and EFPIA, which it is hoped will provide greater transparency for the healthcare industry alongside better treatment and outcomes for patients. Lithuania has, however, already made good progress by the adoption of a national ‘HCP/HCO Disclosure Code’ in 2013 and 2014 by IFPA (The Lithuanian Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry) and the VGA (The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association) respectively, in order to supplement its 2004 ‘Code of Ethics for Pharmaceutical Marketing’.
Poland agrees to take transparency further
After recently taking steps to create its own disclosure code that falls into line with EFPIA’s code, INFARMA, the Polish association for the innovative pharmaceutical industry has together with the Presidium of the Regional Medical Council in Warsaw recently organised a national debate on transparency.
In February this year, INFARMA and the Regional Chamber of Physicians adopted a joint position reflecting their strong commitment to the transparent and ethical standards of collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and health care providers and organisations. They concluded that a ‘conflict of interests’ declaration is a necessity for the medical environment to reveal their relationships with pharmaceutical companies in the area of “physicians’ education and scientific publications”. The organisations recommend that the practice, widely used in other EU countries and the USA, is adopted in Poland – whereby physicians declare their cooperation with pharmaceutical companies in their daily practice, during scientific conference lectures and presentations.
Poland, like the rest of Europe want transparency to translate into real benefits for patients: INFARMA writes in their Disclosure Code “…by making necessary investments, we improve Polish standards of medical treatment, and want to build the confidence of patients, who have the right to receive prompt and effective therapy.”
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.