February 1, 2022
‘Dopesick’ Bill would shine light on pharmaceutical payments – Darren O’Rourke TD, David Cullinane TD and Seán Crowe TD

Sinn Féin TDs Darren O’Rourke, David Cullinane and Seán Crowe will introduce the Healthcare (Transparent Payments) Bill 2022 in the Dáil tomorrow.

The bill seeks to make it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment suppliers to declare payments, gifts, donations and all other transfers of value made by them to healthcare professionals and organisations.

It was drafted in response to recent research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) identifying a lack of transparency regarding such payments here.

Teachta O’Rourke said:

“We know payments to healthcare professionals and organisations can create a conflict of interest. Evidence shows that receipt of payments from the pharmaceutical industry is, for example, associated with higher prescribing rates, higher prescribing costs, increased use of specific drug classes, including opioids, and lower prescribing quality. 

“The popular show ‘Dopesick’ highlighted this to great effect in the context of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

“In Ireland, tens of millions of euros are paid to healthcare professionals and organisations each year by the pharmaceutical industry.

“While a voluntary register of these payments is currently in place and maintained by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, recent research conducted at the RCSI found that the identity of many recipients is anonymous, while other payments may not be reported at all.

“The current voluntary system is inadequate. The Healthcare (Transparent Payments) Bill 2022 is needed to bring Ireland in line with international best practice, and is a measure in the interest of industry, professionals, organisations and the general public.

“This legislation would require pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment suppliers to declare all payments to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) on an annual basis. 

“Failure to do so could result in a fine of €100,000. The bill also provides for the HPRA to establish and maintain the register and to ensure it is searchable and accessible to the public.

“I look forward to introducing the bill with my colleagues Teachtaí Cullinane and Crowe and hope it can progress through all stages with the support of TDs and Senators from across the Houses.”

Prof. Tom Fahey, Professor of General Practice at RCSI, added:

“This bill enacts greater transparency in relation to gifts, donations or other payments to health professionals and healthcare organisations in Ireland.

“It will enhance transparency, public trust and ethical standards for the medical profession in Ireland.”

Dr. Ciara Conlan, co-founder of Access to Medicines Ireland and Registrar in Medical Virology said:

“Access to Medicines Ireland supports this bill. It will remove the onus from the healthcare professional or institution of reporting payments received, while still allowing them to collaborate with industry productively and to be assured that funding and payment records will be accessible to the public.

“The public rightly have high expectations for transparency in healthcare, and this bill represents best practice internationally while promoting a culture of open disclosure.” 

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