Let the sunshine in!
EU must pass sunshine legislation to protect patients and promote informed choice
There are few fields in which transparency is more important than in health. When people’s lives are at stake, there should be a clear separation between economic interests and quality of care. Therefore, Mental Health Europe, along with other organizations both within and outside mainstream psychiatry and mental health, is extremely concerned about the unethical manner in which some pharmaceutical companies promote their products. From influencing psychiatrists to prescribe their products through promotional gifts, to funding research, sponsoring conferences and individual speakers, or paying psychiatrists to act as brand “cheerleaders,” pharmaceutical companies have found countless ways to get their products and messages across. Ruthless marketing, coupled with the overprescription and questionable use of psychiatric drugs recognized even by the American Psychiatric Association in their Choosing Wisely campaign, are putting endless numbers of patients at risk, particularly children and the elderly.
Although individuals have to declare an interest if they are publishing an academic paper on industry-funded research, the size of the payments doctors receive, and the scale of the marketing operations directed at them, are largely unknown. Thus, the United States and France have attempted to use the law to make the marketing of pharmaceuticals more transparent, so that patients, physicians and Governments can have some idea of the extent to which economic interests affect drug prescriptions. “Sunshine” laws, as they are commonly called, require drug manufacturers to report any payments, ownership, investment interests and other transfers of value made to physicians or teaching hospitals.
Mental Health Europe is convinced that the right of patients to make informed choices about treatments cannot be upheld without the right to know about the marketing activities of companies selling powerful, mind altering drugs. Therefore, on World Mental Health Day, MHE calls on the European Union to initiate the process of drafting “Sunshine legislation” and ensure that medication is always prescribed for health reasons, not economic ones. Mental Health Europe also calls on other individuals and organisations who share our concerns to join with us in starting a discussion with the European Commission and the European Parliament on how such legislation could be enacted and implemented.
Covertly offering money to psychiatrists without disclosing the possible “strings attached” is dishonest and possibly harmful for patients. It infringes on their right to be fully aware of the rationale behind their being prescribed psychiatric drugs, and thus disempowers them in the process. In the murky world of big pharma marketing, it is high time we let the sunshine in!
For more information, please contact Mental Health Europe Communications Manager Silvana Enculescu at firstname.lastname@example.org