By Paweł Sztwiertnia

With only a few weeks to go, companies are ready to start collecting data and a wide-reaching communications campaign means physicians are now taking a pragmatic approach to disclosure of transfers of value, says Paweł Sztwiertnia, General Director of INFARMA, the Polish industry association

Pharma companies in Poland have their systems lined up and are ready to start implementing the EFPIA code on disclosure of transfers of value at the beginning of 2015. “Our members have let us know that everything is falling into place and they are ready to begin collecting data,” says Pawel Sztwiertnia, General Director of the industry association INFARMA. ”Of course we are still talking theoretically. On the surface it looks simple, but there are questions about how implementation will go in practice.”

Unlike other associations which are setting up centralised systems, member companies in Poland will host their own registries, with INFARMA’s website providing links to these dedicated databases.

This approach has freed up INFARMA to concentrate on explaining the code to healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations. “From the industry side, Infarma is the leader in driving the education programme. We have been targeting scientific associations, attending congresses and getting discussions about the code on transfers of value onto the agenda,” said Sztwiertnia.

In Poland, some legal regulations have already been adopted at a national level, independently of INFARMA’s activities. A recent amendment to the medical consultants law act introduces an obligation for medical consultants to declare their relations with pharmaceutical and medtech companies, to identify any potential conflicts of interest. However it does not require of them to disclose any financial information. The change applies only medical consultants whose role is to advise public authorities on health policy – not all physicians.

Level playing field

The new rules do not require doctors to disclose transfers of value however, and there is unlikely to be a legal requirement for such disclosure within the next year because parliamentary elections will intervene.

“We believe a law is needed to create a level playing field, but for now it is just the industry taking the initiative,” Sztwiertnia observed.

INFARMA’s publicity drive has won it the backing of civic groups that campaign for transparency and improved governance in Poland. For example, the Batory Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working for greater openness, has backed the EFPIA code. “We got very strong support from the Batory Foundation, which highlighted that the greater transparency is needed and the code should be adopted by all sides, not just by pharma,” said Sztwiertnia.

Sztwiertnia believes physicians are still concerned about being associated with receiving transfer of value from specific pharma companies, but now see disclosure as inevitable. “They understand it is going to happen and are more pragmatic about it,” he said.

Describing transfers of value

As a result, the focus has switched to ensuring there are accurate descriptions of specific types of transfers of value. “Remember, in many cases, the money is not going into a physician’s wallet. In transfers of value such as support to attend medical congresses, they don’t see the money at all,” Sztwiertnia notes. He considers the templates that have been drawn up will enable different types of transfers of value to be described exactly. “The different categories will make it clear what is involved, Sztwiertnia says. “The descriptions are really important.”

Another complication concerns assigning transfers of value when healthcare organisations arrange congresses with multiple sponsors. “It can be hard to unpick who paid what and how it should be assigned,” Sztwiertnia said. “Implementation will depend on having the will to solve practical problems like this.”

It is also important that the general public has an understanding of different categories of transfers of value and of the importance of the interchange between the industry and healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations. INFARMA plans to widen its communication campaign to the public in 2015, in preparation for the first disclosures in 2016.

“We wanted to focus on physicians first because we wanted them to learn about the code from us, not from the media. But discussing this with the public will be very important.” It would be “excellent” if the process of public education could be done in cooperation with physicians, but Sztwiertnia feels that as yet they are not ready to engage in joint activities with the industry.

 

Paweł Sztwiertnia, General Director of Infarma, the Polish industry association since January 15, 2008, is a graduate of the Medical Academy in Krakow and the National School of Public Administration, where he specialised in public health.