Today, Mental Health Europe (MHE) launches its “Shedding light on transparent cooperation in healthcare: The way forward for sunshine and transparency laws across Europe” report, a unique study which looks at the links between the health industry and the medical community and its impact on public health, users of mental health services and patients.
The report provides exclusive insight into industry-doctors interactions and shows that 94% of doctors enter any type of interaction with the industry, with pharma payments to doctors and organisations amounting to thousands of millions annually. (UK €520, Belgium €148, Spain €181, Germany €109, Poland €66)
MHE is concerned by the undue influence of the health industry, especially the pharmaceutical industry, on healthcare since it may bring substantial risks for public health, users of mental health services and patients. This influence can result in altered prescribing behaviour, over-medicalisation (especially in psychiatry, where a worrying reliance on medication as the main form of treatment for mental ill health takes place), biased research results and Clinical Practice Guidelines, off-label use of medicines and biased reimbursement decisions.
“Industry-doctors interactions may take the form of payments for consultation services, sitting on advisory boards, speaker fees, remuneration for conducting research, free gifts and meals, hospitality, drug samples: it is worrying to see that the pharmaceutical industry invests so much in marketing that it opens the possibility of conflict of interest for doctors.” explains Claudia Marinetti, MHE Director.
The report finds that most healthcare industry across Europe have introduced non-binding self-regulations which contains many loopholes and still result in low rates of disclosure of payments. Only 9 countries across Europe have implemented sunshine laws which put obligation on healthcare actors to disclose information about their cooperation with the industry (Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey).
The report shows that disclosure of information is essential for patients to access objective information on the financial cooperation between the industry and healthcare professionals. The availability of such information allows patients and users of mental health services to make informed choices about the type of treatment or support they decide to have. The reality is that only 12% of patients know that information about links between pharma and healthcare sector is, to some extent, publicly available.
“Lack of transparency surrounding the links between pharma and mental health care is a real problem. Using undesirable marketing activities to maximise profits, going beyond ethical standards, creates substantial risks for users and patients. Greater transparency will allow to re-establish much needed trust and independence in mental health care provision” adds Dr Marinetti.
The study formulates recommendations and points to possible approaches to adopt to move towards more transparent cooperation in healthcare. Through the publication of this report, MHE calls for clear and robust sunshine policies, which are legally binding and harmonised at EU level.