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Naturally Sceptical, the Media Will Doubtless Scrutinise Pharma’s New Transparency Initiative (Guest Blog)

Sten Stovall Pic

It seems Pharma’s standing among general practitioners (GPs) could use some serious improving – and that doing so would be in the industry’s own interests. Also, as cutting-edge drug innovations occur at a rising rate, family doctors will need as much insight as possible into what they can prescribe to end-users, the patients, and why. So that gulf between GPs and Pharma needs to be narrowed, not least for the sake of the patient.

Easier said than done, one might say. But there are forces at work that should aid this process.

The growing divide between GPs and Pharma was underscored in the “Perceptions Of Pharma” survey released in October 2015, by the healthcare data and intelligence provider Binley’s, which found that 43% of family doctors had a negative feeling about the drugs industry, due to a sense of conflicting interests and agendas and perceptions that Pharma placed too much emphasis on sales and profits.

And the gulf could widen further if a recent survey by the ABPI is accurate, due to the industry’s incoming transparency initiative whereby companies by end-June this year will need to publish details of all payments they’ve made to healthcare professionals, including consultancy fees for speaking, and travel or registration fees for attending medical congresses. The ABPI poll found nearly 25% of the GP respondents said they’d be less likely to work with drug companies if such details were made public.

Two clichés come to mind here – “Trust takes time to build”, and “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.

Firstly, the more transparency (aka transactional details) the better; transparency means showing the naked truth consistently so that GPs and patients eventually think, “What you see is what you get,” without fear that prescribing choices by family doctors are contaminated by back-handed incentives. Patients will want a doctor who has insight into the therapy he’s giving them. If educational trips paid by Pharma are seen to be reasonable and not freebee party junkets, then that should eventually change GP attitudes. But be aware – the media is inherently sceptical, will be closely watching and will happily locate – and in so doing fan the flames caused by – bone fide conflicts of interest.

Clearly, as Pharma plays bigger roles in helping patients and healthcare professionals get the best from treatments, partnering models will evolve with key players who can add value. Patient choice will play a major role in determining who the partners will be. And that evolving process, if transparent, should gradually build bridges between GPs and Pharma from which all stakeholders can benefit.

About the author 

Sten Stovall is a professional writer and editor whose journalistic career spans more than 40 years. He now writes for Informa Plc about the pharmaceutical industry and related topic, his articles  appearing  in Scrip Intelligence, The Pink Sheet and sister publication IN VIVO.


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