Cyprus Mail

More transparency from Big Pharma

By Constantinos Psillides

Pharmaceutical companies are to disclose their dealings with healthcare professionals as part of a Europe-level initiative to apply a stricter self-regulatory framework in the sector and increase transparency.

Details on the provisions of the revised “Code of Conduct on the Promotion of Prescription Only Medicinal Products” were announced during a working breakfast with journalists, which was organised by the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA), member of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

According to the Code’s latest update (May 2014), the companies-members of EFPIA and members of its unions-members will start in 2016.

On behalf of KEFEA, Kyriakos Mikellis said the new Code adopts stricter provisions on the interaction between medical representatives and healthcare professionals, the promotion of prescription medicinal products, the availability of samples as well as promotional material, and the hosting of healthcare professionals during scientific events.

He said the Code would ensure that the promotion of medicines to healthcare professionals is carried out in a transparent and honest way, without deception and in accordance with the law’s provisions, while she said this initiative was supported by the Cyprus Medical Association.

“This is a Europe-level initiative, aimed at increasing the transparency of practices applied in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Mikellis, adding that he was confident  the Code’s adoption would bring significant benefits to patients, healthcare professionals and the broader pharmaceutical sector, while at the same time reaffirming the pharmaceutical companies’ commitment to ethical behaviour.

While the companies are promoting transparency, government Pharmaceutical Services were in hot water recently, after Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides requested an inquiry over pricing practices.

According to Michaelides, the drug pricing committee has been using an erroneous pricing formula since 2009, resulting in prices sometime 3 times higher than some European countries. The error occurred because the committee used Greece as the country with the lowest drug prices to calculate the price for Cyprus, ignoring the fact that since 2009 drug prices in Greece had skyrocketed.

Michaelides also accused the Pharmaceutical Services of a cover-up, claiming that when asked to present reports for the office of the Auditor General, the head of the Pharmaceutical Services tried to strike out a suggestion by the drug pricing committee to update the formula.

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