With Dr. Athanasios Exadaktylos

While financial transparency will have an important long term impact, there is potential for misunderstanding of the initiative in the short term, believes Athanasios Exadaktylos, Chairman of Thessaloniki Medical Chamber. It is essential to explain the benefits, Dr Exadaktylos says in this Q&A with pharmadisclosure.eu

Question: What is your view of the need for, and value of, financial transparency?

Answer: I believe that financial transparency is of paramount importance in the health sector, as it establishes trust between doctors and patients and society in general. Therefore, we should take any necessary action to encourage it.

Q: From your perspective as a healthcare professional, how to you view the role and importance of the pharmaceutical industry in ongoing medical education?

A: The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in on-going medical education, through financing research, clinical trials and scientific events. In several countries the pharmaceutical industry is the main sponsor of scientific meetings, and especially in countries like Greece, which have been badly affected by the financial crisis, it is important that this role is maintained.

Q: Do you have any concerns about financial disclosure?

A: My only concern is that at the beginning there is the possibility of misunderstanding between doctors, industry and the public about the aims of the initiative, as the benefits are not obvious at first glance. However, in the long term, financial disclosure will help both healthcare professionals and the industry.

Q: Do you have any views on how the need for financial disclosure should be communicated to your fellow healthcare professionals?

A: The need for financial disclosure should be communicated to healthcare professionals by their own councils and other associations. It’s the only way to avoid misunderstandings about the aims, to explain the benefits and to obtain support from the doctors – and ensure their willingness to participate.

Q: Do you have any concerns that disclosure of payments to individual healthcare professionals could affect doctor/patient relationships?

A: I have no concerns at all on this matter. Patients understand – or should do so – that doctors collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, they will not learn something that they don’t already know.

Q: How should, and who should, communicate the message about financial disclosure and the role of the pharma/healthcare professional relationship to the general public?

A: It is not necessary to communicate the message to the general public. Once transparency is established and accessible to anyone, there is no need for further publicity.

Q: The Greek national industry body, the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) has said transparency in the relationship between pharma and healthcare professionals can help in strengthening the healthcare system in Greece, following the financial crisis. Do you agree?

A: In Greece at the moment, public opinion is very sensitive because of the financial crisis and I fear that disclosure will be badly misunderstood both by healthcare professionals and patients, though for different reasons. Therefore, we need extra effort and time to explain the aims of the action and the benefits. As the healthcare system will take several years to re-balance, it is too early to predict what impact transparency in the relationships between pharma and doctors will have.

Q: Are you aware of the Code Awareness Campaign, 15 October to 15 November, when SFEE member companies visited physicians to communicate the principles of the disclosure code? What is your response to the campaign?

A: Although that I am in favour of the code, I expect the initial response of physicians during the awareness campaign to be negative. Most of my fellow physicians will be suspicious of the purpose, the effects and the results – there is a justified fear that in the long term the pharma industry plans to reduce benefits for doctors. There is also a concern that the public will not readily understand the relationships between the industry and the physicians.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: The Government initiative to make financial disclosure mandatory for physicians is in my opinion premature, because the relationship between doctors and the Greek Government is somewhat strained at the moment. For this reason we should not expect a warm welcome of plans for mandatory disclosure, but of course things will settle down in due time.