By Richard Bergström

Member companies and organisations report good headway on the technical aspects of disclosure. Now it is critical to ensure that publishing transfers of value does not deter healthcare professionals from engaging with the industry, says Richard Bergström, Director General of EFPIA

FromRichardBergstrom the start of 2015 EFPIA member companies will start to collate data on transfers of value to healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations, in preparation for the publication of the information in 2016.

There has been a lot of work going on in the background to prepare for this. “It is not a trivial exercise: it involves an enormous effort by member companies,” says Richard Bergström, Director General of EFPIA. “However, I am confident they will be ready.”

Launching EFPIA’s campaign to communicate the code on transfers of value to healthcare professionals in May this year, Bergström said it was “the start of a big conversation.”

The dialogue is in full flow; between member companies and healthcare professionals, between national organisations in individual countries, and between EFPIA and umbrella medical groups in Brussels.

However, Bergström is concerned at reports from a number of member companies, which have told him some physicians intend to block disclosure. “While I respect their rights, I think physicians who are considering withholding their information have to realise the importance of transparency in underpinning open collaboration between the industry and the medical profession,” Bergström says. “It is central to the development and uptake of improved treatments.”

One difficulty in communicating this message is that medical associations in Europe are very fragmented, with some focussing on science, some on education and others on research, and being segmented by therapeutic area, and by country. Even the larger national association are divided into sub-associations.

Given this, EFPIA’s “big conversation” has drawn in umbrella medical groups in Brussels, creating an important focus for discussing the possible impact of disclosure.

Continuing medical education

“The motivation for bringing in the code of disclosure is to be transparent about relationships between the industry and healthcare professionals. While medical bodies agree with this objective, we are aware that disclosure might change some people’s behaviour,” says Bergström.

A particular concern is that there may be an impact on physicians’ participation in continuing medical education. EFPIA has alerted medical associations and congress organisers to the possibility and this has spurred the Alliance for Biomedical Research, a body representing 21 of Europe’s leading biomedical societies, to draw up some guidelines on quality standards for continuing medical education.

“These standards are not coming from the industry, they are being set by medical organisations,” Bergström notes.

“Once we have transparency in place, the guidelines will provide the context to explain the relationship between the industry and healthcare professionals,” says Bergström. “It will be evident how and why the industry sponsors congresses and why its role in promoting continuing medical education is so important.”

Richard Bergström is the Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. Following positions in Switzerland in regulatory affairs at the pharmaceutical companies Roche and Novartis, he served for nine years as the  Director-General of LIF, the Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry. He is a pharmacist by training, receiving his MScPharm degree from the University of Uppsala, Sweden in 1988.