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Accusations of non-compliance

Reports suggest that two leading pharma companies have failed to adhere to the ABPI guidelines on patient groups, yet the Code of Practice tells a different story

AstraZeneca and Novartis have been accused of not complying with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice by delaying the disclosure of the patients groups they fund.

However, the ABPI Code of Practice is clear with regard to pharma companies revealing their relationships with patient groups; and it is this clarity that demonstrates that neither AstraZeneca nor Novartis are actively delaying the disclosure of patient groups with which they are individually involved.

The failure of the two companies to reveal their individual involvement with patient groups is one of several examples of companies' widely differing interpretation of the Code of Practice, according to a report in the Financial Times, which stated that the delayed disclosure of such information `marks a blow for advocates of transparency at a time of growing concern about the links between drug companies and many patient groups that are becoming increasingly powerful lobbies for the use of new medicines'.

The ABPI had stipulated that member companies should make public the patient groups they work with by May 1 2006. `Companies must make public by means of information on their websites or in their annual report a list of all patient organisations to which they provide financial support,' the revised Code states.

However, as this statement makes clear, companies are not obliged to post this information on their websites, as well as in their annual reports, leaving them free to take longer to reveal such details within their annual reports which, for those who had already published figures for 2005 before the May 1 deadline, will not be until the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2007.

Richard Ley, head of media relations at the ABPI said: ìThe Code of Practice is very clear in that companies have to make public on their website or in their annual review their involvement with patient groups. However, for those companies that chose to reveal this in their annual report alone, this could mean April 2007.î

While he admitted that advice from the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority was that such information should be made public from May 1 2006 onwards, he said, ìno complaint has been made at this pointî regarding the actions of AstraZeneca and Novartis. ìIf a complaint is made, then it will be investigated and the specifics of the case taken into account.î

A spokesman for Novartis said that the company was happy that it is operating within the Code, with regard to revealing patient groups with which it is involved financially, by publicising the information in its annual report, the next one of which will be out in January 2007.

30th September 2008

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