The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies runs a month-long awareness campaign on financial transparency, following the launch of the code in October

Greece’s industry body, the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) launched its transparency code to the key stakeholders at an event in Athens, following this up with Disclosure Code Month, a national awareness campaign to explain the objectives of the code to healthcare professionals across the country.

The code had a positive reception on its launch at the National Health Operations Centre on 9 October. Speaking at the event, Greece’s health minister, Makis Voridis welcomed the move. In the past, relations between pharmaceutical companies and physicians have not been transparent, and this has left room for criticism of the relationship, Voridis noted.

“Against this background, I welcome the SFEE’s initiative. Indeed the disclosure code announced today ensures transparency in the interactions between health professionals and pharma companies,” Voridis told the audience of healthcare experts, presidents of medical societies, heads of patients’ groups and representatives of medical conference organisation bodies.

SFEE will start to collate data from the beginning of 2015 and begin to publish it in 2016. Disclosure will be made through a dedicated electronic platform being set up by SFEE, which will provide free access to the information for the general public.

As things stand, the Association’s code is voluntary and SFEE will only disclose a transfer of value from a pharma company to a healthcare professional if the person concerned has given permission for their data to be published. Any payments SFEE does not have authorisation to disclose will be published in aggregate. SFEE will also publish details of financial transfers of value from its member companies to healthcare organisations.

Imposing a disclosure requirement

However, Voridis said the government will promote legislation to impose the requirement to disclose on healthcare professionals and the industry alike. “We are giving it a lot of thought,” said Voridis. “We understand individual interests, but the public interest requires that patients have access to this information, so they can assess the objectivity of the medical advice they receive.”

Greater transparency in the relations of physicians and companies will restore the credibility of both sides, Voridis added.

SFEE President Konstantinos Frouzis said the new code will contribute to the credibility and transparency Greece needs as it re-builds following the collapse of the economy. In October Greece announced plans to exit the International Monetary Fund’s bailout. However, Frouzis said, “Our country is still in crisis. It is our duty to help it out, by continuous initiatives for reform and modernisation.”

The SFEE has organised a series of activities to raise awareness of the code and to engage with healthcare organisations and professional bodies to promote compliance with the new transparency rules.

During the Code Awareness Campaign from 15 October to 15 November, scientific experts from SFEE member companies visited physicians across the country to communicate the principles of the disclosure code.

Cooperation is required on both sides to improve public opinion, said Markos Gerasopoulos, Chair of SFEE’s Ethics and Transparency Committee. “The success of this initiative – that is aimed at maximum transparency – will crucially hinge upon partnership and close collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals,” he said.