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Stage 3. While you’re working together

When a decision has been made to work together, the following issues should be considered.

Ensure the partnership is documented in a written agreement

Once the decision has been taken to pursue a partnership, it is critical that it is formalised by a written agreement that includes public disclosures, and entry and exit strategies. This document should stand up to internal and public scrutiny. Circumstances change over time, so clarify the scope of the partnership – for instance, what happens to any unspent project funding?

The level of information required to execute agreements will vary across companies. Be prepared for diverse approaches to the way partners conduct due diligence.

Review progress frequently

Frequently review the progress of joint projects against the aims and objectives that were agreed upon at the beginning of the collaboration. Comparison of project progress to originally identified milestones can be very useful, particularly to ensure you meet all reporting requirements. It may be useful to address any barriers to execution early so that alternative arrangements can be discussed and agreed.

A useful resource is the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations’ (IAPO’s) ‘Step-by-step guide to project management’.

Consider long term sustainability

At the outset, consider the sustainability of a collaboration and whether a health consumer organisation and pharmaceutical company can continue working together over the long term. Take into account that pharmaceutical companies’ budgets are usually reviewed annually and it can be difficult to confirm funding beyond a twelve-month period.

Also be aware that each party’s needs and expectations will evolve over time. Regular consideration of these factors will help ensure the relationship evolves appropriately.

Parties to the relationship should consider how a withdrawal or reduction of funds might be managed in order to have the least negative impact on the health consumer organisation’s sustainability. Exit strategies that determine how relationships might be terminated, including unexpectedly, should be developed from the outset.

The communication of medical and scientific information

Consider how medical and scientific information will be communicated between organisations.

Many health consumer organisations have medical advisers to assist with the interpretation of this information. It is recommended that discussions about medical information should involve the pharmaceutical company’s medical department and the health consumer organisation’s advisers.

Medical and scientific information may be provided to the health consumer organisation before it has been published publically. It is important to ensure that all confidential information that is shared in collaboration is treated appropriately, and protected by intellectual property rights as required.

Dealing with conflicts of interest

Be aware of real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest that could occur. For more information on compliance issues, click here.

The use of logos

It is critical that all parties involved in a collaboration seek permission to use the logo of a health consumer organisation or pharmaceutical company. This involves acknowledging in writing that permissions have been granted for the use of logos and how parties to the agreement will be recognised.

If you are unsure, ask!

Contact Consumers Health Forum of Australia and Medicines Australia for further guidance if you have any questions or concerns about entering into a new partnership.