September 28, 2023
Government must urgently address lack of transparency for problematic pharmaceutical industry payments – Darren O’Rourke TD

Darren O’Rourke TD has criticised the government for failing to adopt a Sinn Féin bill that would provide much needed clarity around pharmaceutical industry payments.

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

Commenting on a newly-launched consultation in Britain, the Meath East TD said:

“Ireland is lagging behind international best practice when it comes to this issue. It is completely unacceptable that there is a complete lack of transparency surrounding pharmaceutical industry payments in Ireland.

“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.

“Sinn Fein has provided the solution and yet the government continues to bury its head in the sand leaving the people in Ireland vulnerable to the problems this opacity creates. This is exemplified by research cited in the newly launched consultation on healthcare payments in Britain.

“The First Do No Harm Report of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety (IMMDS) Review highlighted how the lack of transparent payments was a contributing factor in the vaginal mesh scandal. This scandal also impacted many hundreds of women in Ireland. This is absolutely abhorrent.

“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 this database completely excludes the medical device sector, and furthermore 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. This measure is in the best interests of industry, professionals, organisations and the general public.

“This legislation would require pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies 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.

“Prof. Tom Fahey, Professor of General Practice at RCSI and Access to Medicines Ireland also support the introduction of this bill, stating that it ‘enacts greater transparency in relation to gifts, donations or other payments to health professionals and healthcare organisations in Ireland; this can create greater trust in our healthcare system while also making a start on addressing the negative effects of conflicts of interest on Irish healthcare.’

“It is high time that the government addressed this issue and followed the lead of countries like France, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal.”

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