Op-Ed from Milton Catelin
Medicines Australia is committed to positive and responsible relationships between the industry and health consumer organisations (HCOs). Medicines Australia agrees that the relationships between patient advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies should be transparent – and for MA members, it is.
The much touted claims of bias and a lack of transparency we’ve recently been reading about are disappointing, ill informed, and primarily based on US examples where the system may not be as rigorous as Australia’s.
Medicines Australia partnered with the Consumers Health Forum to develop the Working Together Guide which provides a framework for successful collaborations that are built on openness, trust and respect.
The principles of the Working Together Guide are reflected in Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct – with which all MA members are obligated to comply.
The Code requires that industry relationships with HCOs are independent and transparent. No company can request that it is the sole sponsor of a HCO, nor must it seek to influence materials produced in any way that would be favourable to its commercial interests.
The Code provides significant detail about payments and transfers of value provided to healthcare professionals by pharmaceutical companies – this transparency is currently only provided by one part of the overall medicines and medical devices industry – Medicines Australia member companies.
The Code provides unprecedented access and transparency interactions between our member companies and HCO’s – including financial details. These reports are published on our website (www.medicinesaustralia.com.au), and are available for anyone to access.
This code, and these exacting standards unfortunately do not apply to our entire pharmaceutical ecosystem. To remedy this, Medicines Australia has written to other industry associations within the sector to invite them to enhance their own Codes of Conduct in order to eliminate concerns of bias or conflicts of interest in HCO’s.
To date, none of the organisations approached have elected to strengthen their Codes, or encourage their members to become a signatory or adopt the Working Together Guide.
Medicines Australia is naturally disappointed in this outcome. Our experience is that transparency engenders confidence in the fantastic work the innovative medicines industry is doing.
We would encourage any pharmaceutical company to become a signatory to our Code; and for other industry associations to enhance their Codes of Conduct to bring greater transparency to these relationships.
This would go a long way to overcoming the suggestions of bias such as these, that occur with disappointing regularity.
These reports of bias and a lack of transparency within our industry in Australia demonstrate a lack of understanding of our industry and are also suggesting that our approvals system is not rigorous, is not based on fact, reason, economics and scientific evidence and is open to influence from a third party advocacy group.
We, the innovative pharmaceutical manufacturers who submit lengthy scientific and business cases to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and disclose our financial interactions, depend on the integrity and confidence in our regulatory system for our economic viability in Australia.
Phone: (02) 6122 8500