European Pharma companies to disclose health professional payments

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Published: 2 Oct 2015
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Andrew Powrie-Smith - European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, Brussels, Belgium

Andy Powrie-Smith talks to ecancertv at ECC 2015 about his work with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and why, from early 2016, its members will begin disclosing payments made to health professionals for various activities.

These activities would include declaring honoraria paid for consultancy services, attending advisory boards, speaking at educational meetings, and travel, accommodation and registration fees for congresses.

ECC 2015

European Pharma companies to disclose health professional payments

Andrew Powrie-Smith - European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, Brussels, Belgium


The industry is making great efforts to increase the transparency of the relationship between industry and the health professionals that it works with. It’s a vital relationship, it’s a collaboration between industry and the health professional community that has resulted in some amazing advances in therapies. It’s very important in terms of sharing clinical practice across Europe but we understand that there is an increasing kind of societal expectation around transparency, perhaps none more so than in healthcare. So as part of trying to meet those expectations going forward, EFPIA has introduced a disclosure code, as it has been termed, where industry will begin in probably the second quarter of 2016 to disclose the payments it has made to health professionals during 2015 and then that will go on from then on in an annual disclosure. That’s payments to health professionals across a range of activities. So things like advisory boards, speaking, chairing meetings, those kinds of things, but also sponsorship to attend meetings. So things like travel, accommodation and your registration fees at events like we’re here at the European Cancer Congress. So it is probably quite a transformational step in the relationship between industry and the people that we work with but we hope that bringing in that greater transparency can inspire confidence in that relationship and secure that basis for collaboration going forward.

Why was this originally created?

Yes, over time the relationship between industry and health professionals has come in for a lot of scrutiny. We operate in a unique space where it’s commercial organisations often working with staff in the public employ in that area of healthcare which is very critical and very sensitive. So there was certainly a kind of emerging opinion from many commentators and from the industry as well that we needed to ensure that people had confidence and trust in that relationship for the next decade and that being transparent about those relationships and what are already well-regulated relationships, but that people had confidence in those going forward. So industry wanted to be proactive on that basis.

What happens if people don’t comply?

The way the code works, so EFPIA sets the standard across Europe and one of the conditions of membership is that our member associations in each country transpose the EFPIA disclosure code into their own codes of practice. So each of those codes and how they operate in the countries varies slightly from country to country but each would have their own sanctions. But it’s a condition of membership that if you’re a member of EFPIA, and we have forty of the world’s largest and significant pharma companies, a condition of membership is compliance with this code.

How have healthcare professionals been reacting?

Again that’s probably quite a broad question because it really varies across the piece. We’ve looked at surveys in the BMJ and other sources and I think there’s broad support for transparency across the piece and a significant level of support. At an individual level it can often be daunting for people, suddenly a relationship which perhaps has been little understood in terms of the general public and with patients and so on is going to get a lot more focus and a lot more attention. So I think that makes people nervous. But we have some experience in other countries, so the US, for example, has been disclosing for a couple of years. And sure, in the first year there was quite a lot of media attention, quite a lot of analysis of the figures, but once that initial attention goes away what you’re left with is a more open, transparent, secure relationship for the future. Certainly that’s our intent and our hope for the 33 countries that we cover across Europe.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One of the reasons that we’re here is to try and make sure that people are really aware, not only of what’s happening but why it’s happening. There are a lot of resources available on the EFPIA website which is www.efpia.eu. So if people, health professionals, health professional organisations, want to find out more, understand more, really encourage them to look there or contact us directly and we’re happy to have those discussions and conversations.