In recent years there has been a growing interest in the nature of the pharmaceutical industry’s relationships with healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations, particularly because patients and the public at large want to be sure that such relationships do not inappropriately affect a physician’s choice of treatment.
Rightly so, because a patient’s trust is built on the integrity that their physician’s recommendation is based on clinical evidence and experience. In recognition of the fact that the interactions between the industry and medical professionals can create the potential for conflicts of interest, the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Companies (KEFEA) has adopted the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Association’s (EFPIA) Disclosure Code, with a goal to strengthen the legitimate relationship between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.
We believe that healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations should be fairly compensated for the legitimate expertise and services that they provide to the industry. At the same time, these relationships need to be handled openly and in a transparent manner. To that end, beginning in 2016, EFPIA member companies will disclose information about payments and transfers of value made in 2015 either directly or indirectly to healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals. This information will be established on a public platform and could include information such as a consultancy fee for a speaking engagement, payment for travel, or registration fees to attend a medical education congress.
One may inquire why it is important for the pharmaceutical industry to interact with healthcare professionals. One of our main roles is to educate healthcare professionals on available pharmaceutical therapies and the relevant clinical data. As the primary point of contact with patients, the medical profession is in a position to offer invaluable insight and expert knowledge on patients’ behavior and management of diseases—all of which are essential for the development of new innovative drugs and the improvement of existing treatments. This information ultimately allows pharmaceutical companies to improve patient care and treatment options with benefits for individuals and society at large.
Taking it one step further, it is a condition of EFPIA membership that its member associations and member companies represented and active in Cyprus comply with the national code (accessible at www.kefea.org.cy). In the case that a member company is found in breach of the Code, disciplinary actions will be taken, including economic sanctions and or expulsion from the association.
With this commitment we seek to promote more openness and we encourage other members of the pharmaceutical industry to make similar assurances. After all, the purpose of such a commitment is to be more transparent, thereby fostering greater understanding and trust between the healthcare community and the patients we all serve.
*Joanna Kozakou is the President of the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA).