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ABPI seeks Code opinion

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries is investigating the views of stakeholders and patient advocacy groups through a series of targeted interviews

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI), which is currently reviewing its Code of Practice for the pharmaceutical industry, has attempted to learn the views of stakeholders and patient advocacy groups through a series of targeted interviews.

With the help of independent polling firm, Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), the ABPI sought opinions from 27 stakeholders through face-to-face, or telephone interviews. The interviewees were considered ìindustry activeî and interacted with the pharma industry in variety of ways. They were asked for their views on such issues as: governance, independence, complaints and sanctions, aims, content, scope, the `ideal' Code, as well as communications.

The results showed that these stakeholders seek a ìCode that will be transparentî and for which ìawareness and understanding will be highî. It was recognised that a Code of Practice is a complex idea to realise, and that there would still be areas where there are `no easy answers'. However, those interviewed believed that there were several key areas where improvements could be made to the Code, to bring it more in line with the modern-day pharma business environment.

Among the many findings, stakeholders interviewed by TNS believe that:

  • the industry often receives poor press and has a reputation in public of being secretive and unscrupulous

  • the ABPI should be ìmindfulî of the changes in social attitudes to the acceptance by the medical profession of gifts/hospitality

  • self-regulatory governance, in adherence to a Code, is acceptable, provided that there is strict monitoring and that sanctions for rule-breaking are a ìrealî deterrent (suggestions for sanctions included fines, public apologies and cessation of marketing activities; public shaming was also considered as a possibility).

Regarding the aims of the reformed Code, stakeholders thought that:

  • the Code should aim to ensure ethical and transparent working relationships between the industry and stakeholder organisations, as well as protect or `benefit' the patients and provide a level playing field for the industry

  • the update Code should not restrain advocacy stakeholders from working `in true partnership' with the industry.

TNS also asked the interviewees about what should be the content and coverage of the new Code, and this question drew out the most passionate differences of opinion. The key issue was the possible role of the pharma industry as a provider of healthcare information to the public.

One school of thought supported the industry's contribution in this respect, while others (yet a less common view) thought that commercial interests would prevent the industry from ever being ìtruly impartial and non-promotionalî.

Some stakeholders felt that the current Code ìprevents information from reaching the publicî.

An executive summary of the findings, plus those from eight interviews and three focus groups with representatives of patient advocacy groups, can be viewed on the ABPI's website, at: http://www.abpi.org.uk/

30th September 2008

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