by Paweł Sztwiertnia

Financial disclosure provides a means to highlight the level of cooperation that pharma has with doctors, patients’ groups and research institutions. That may be in the industry’s interest, but it is also in the public interest, says Paweł Sztwiertnia, General Director of Infarma, the Polish industry association

“We need to talk to doctors and patients
because we provide medicines,
and without talking we can’t do that,”
says Paweł Sztwiertnia.

That’s why EFPIA’s initiative on disclosure is so important, Mr Sztwiertnia said, opening his talk on the state of play in implementing the code in Poland, at the launch of EUpharmadisclosure.eu, in Brussels on 27 May.

Infarma is involved in a process of “intensive education” to inform the medical community about the financial disclosure code and its implementation. Following the adoption of the EFPIA code by its member companies at the end of 2013, Infarma carried out a survey in February 2014 of physicians who regularly cooperate with industry, to assess their views of possible threats and benefits, from the perspective of healthcare professionals.

While respondents believe cooperation between companies and healthcare organisations is mutually beneficial, they are also aware that the public view of the relationship is negative.

“The survey confirmed what we thought it would,” Mr Sztwiertnia said. Physicians say it is a good initiative that will shift public perceptions in the long term. But it also revealed “big anxiety” associated with disclosure, since at this point physicians believe there is little public understanding of why they are receiving payments.

There were positive comments from doctors who said communication with pharma is the only way to find out about new medicines, and that highlighting the cooperation between companies and doctors will neutralise negative opinions. However, there is also disquiet that the code will be introduced at the expense of physicians, allowing the industry to improve its reputation at the expense of the medical community.

In addition, the survey uncovered concerns about the privacy of healthcare professionals, that doctors will lose the trust of patients, and that some doctors will chose not to cooperate with companies in future, reducing the quality of care.

Poland’s “Sunshine” Act

Whatever their reservations about Infarma’s disclosure code on transfers of value, consultants in Poland are about to be obliged to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, under a new legal requirement which Ministerstwo Zdrowia, the Ministry of Health is introducing.

Consults will have to disclose connections with any commercial entities, including pharmaceutical companies, health insurers and hospitals, and the information will be in the public domain.

Mr Sztwiertnia likened this to the Sunshine Act in the US [link to story]. Against the background of the change in the law, Infarma is pressing ahead with a programme of communication and education, to ensure the medical community understands the intent of the financial disclosure code.

“Most are pragmatic, because they realise it’s going to happen and they need to be prepared, said Mr Sztwiertnia.

Infarma has also launched a public relations campaign, in which is engaging with journalists and will organise a public debate to discuss the code with key stakeholders.

In general, the response to date to the PR campaign has been positive. Mr Sztwiertnia said the effort will continue. “We have to engage and consult,” he said.

“After all, it all depends on consent by the medical profession to disclose.”

 

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