- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
While collaborations between industry and health professionals are desirable, widespread financial ties bring significant risks of undue influence on professional judgements, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of medical research, education, clinical practice and public trust in medicine, according to a landmark 2009 report from the National Academies of Science in the United States.
This report made a number of important recommendations including:
Recommendation 3.4 The U.S. Congress should create a national program that requires pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies and their foundations to publicly report payments to physicians and other prescribers, biomedical researchers, health care institutions, professional societies, patient advocacy and disease-specific groups, providers of continuing medical education, and foundations created by any of these entities. Until the Congress acts, companies should voluntarily adopt such reporting.
The resulting Physicians Payment Sunshine Act has set a new benchmark in transparency, mandating full public disclosure of these relationships in the United States with data collection commencing January 1, 2013.
Meanwhile, several multinational pharmaceutical companies have already been disclosing the dollar amounts they pay to health professionals.
We commend the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for its ground-breaking 2007 requirement for disclosure of industry-sponsored educational events, but respectfully urge the ACCC to require full disclosure of all benefits from industry to health professionals, including but not limited to hospitality, speaking fees, consultancies, sponsored education, accommodation and travel.
This action was requested in many submissions sent to Medicines Australia about their Code review, in the report of the consumer workshops held, and in submissions made to the ACCC. However, Medicines Australia was successful in convincing the ACCC not to make full disclosure a "condition" of authorising the Code by setting up a Medicines Australia Transparency Working Party to further consider these issues.
We note that the ACCC is holding a pre-decision conference on 12 November 2012 in relation to its draft determination proposing to grant authorisation to the 17th Edition of Medicines Australia Code of Conduct for the next three years.
We ask the ACCC to make the following changes to its draft determination.
- Reduce the period of authorization of the Code of Conduct to one year (2013).
- Request Medicines Australia to submit a revised Code to include arrangements covering transparency of relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and individual health professionals for authorization at the end of 2013.
- Request Medicines Australia to increase the number of informed critics of their current Code regarding transparency matters on the transparency working group.
We also call on Australia’s elected representatives to consider introducing legislation similar to the Sunshine Act, to bring Australia into line with international benchmarks on transparency in healthcare.