Madrid, June 29, 2017.- In 2016, the pharmaceutical industry based in Spain invested approximately 194€ million in contracts with organizations and health professionals to develop R&D projects. In addition, it contributed 112€ million in aid to health professionals so that they could attend scientific-professional meetings and congresses; likewise, the health organizations that organize this type of event were given 81€ million in support. In general, the figures remain stable in relation to the previous year, the first in which these collaborations were published in research and medical training, which are essential pillars to underpin the R&D system of new medicines in Spain.
The publication of this data is as a result of the European transparency initiative adopted by companies adhering to the Code of Good Practices of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Spain. As with last year, during these last days of June pharmaceutical companies have gone ahead with publishing on their websites the value transfers derived from the collaborations made in 2016 with organizations and health professionals. These two areas of research and training are supplemented by two other concepts: the provision of professional services, either individual or from organizations, worth 79€ million, and the allocation of grants, which can only be made to health organizations and totaled 35.5€ million.
The interaction between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare organizations and professionals is fundamental for the investigation of new medicines and for the proper use of them. This collaboration generates a positive dynamic for all: professionals, who update and improve their knowledge about medicines; industry, which benefits from the clinical and scientific experience of health workers; the health system, which has professionals at the forefront of knowledge and international biomedical research, as well as constant pharmacological improvements, and patients and society in general, the direct recipients of the provision of health services.
Since 2002, the pharmaceutical industry has had a Code of Good Practices, which regulates relations between industry and health professionals and organizations to introduce rigor, objectivity and independence into such relationships, which in turn avoids unfair competition between the companies. This Code has been updated periodically with the incorporation of improvements derived from the experience in its application as well as the demands of our society. The publication of the collaborations with professionals and organizations, the outcome of a new modification of the Code carried out in 2014, coincides with this ideas, which also seeks to generate confidence in society about the importance of these relationships.
Since the first publication was published last year, public institutions such as the Transparency and Good Governance Council and the National Commission on Markets and Competition, and private institutions, such as Transparency International Spain, have recognized the value of the initiative.
In this data publication for 2016, aggregated and individualized data continue to coexist (depending on the consent of the professionals themselves), but in the following publication, which will take place in June 2018 whilst also using 2017 data, the entirety of these collaborations will be made public in an individualized way in order to achieve maximum transparency. In any case, the percentage of value transfers published on an individual basis has already grown significantly, from 20% to 35%, between 2015 and 2016, an increase that responds to the growing knowledge and endorsement of health professionals of the Transparency initiative adopted by the pharmaceutical industry with activity in Spain.
Leadership in R&D
The sector’s investment in R&D in 2016 means it maintains it’s position as the absolute industrial leader in this field in Spain, with 1,085€ million (8% more than in 2015). Of this amount, 45% (about 493€ million) went to research contracts outside the city, mainly with the public sector (research centers, hospitals, universities and other bodies), making the pharmaceutical industry the main driver of the biomedical public-private partnership in our country.
The 194€ million in R&D contracts with professionals and centers now published, account for about 40% of the total amount of these external collaborations and refer to collaborations for the design or execution of preclinical studies, clinical trials and post-authorization studies. The remaining offshore investments include concepts such as preclinical research contracts in which no health professionals are involved or the provision of free medication for clinical trials and their monitoring.
“The important commitment made by the pharmaceutical industry to maintain research excellence has consolidated Spain as one of the best-equipped countries in Europe to host clinical trials, particularly in the early stages, which are the most complex and, in turn, allow for the early access to new therapies by patients, who are thus the main beneficiaries of this model,” says FARMAINDUSTRIA’s president Jesús Acebillo.
On the other hand, the 112€ million with which the pharmaceutical industry contributes to the scientific and clinical training of professionals (a figure slightly lower than the 119€ million seen in 2015) shows the sector’s willingness that Spanish health workers continue to maintain the highest level of knowledge which is especially important in the field of health, for the rapid advance in biomedical research and new treatments. Scientific activities and congresses and scientific-professional meetings are the key instrument for this and the pharmaceutical industry is committed to making these possible.
In 2016, the sector also supported health organizations in carrying out this type of activity with 81€ million, an increase of 23% over the previous year. “The increase shows the commitment of the industry to the different health organizations and scientific societies, which are essential agents for sustaining our R&D model of innovative medicines and guidance in training, a guarantee of independence of these activities,” says Acebillo. “The work carried out by the societies in this area contributes to the fact that Spanish doctors have a level of excellence that has been recognized both nationally and internationally and that they carry out healthcare activity that is highly valued by citizens.”
93.4% of the aid allocated by the pharmaceutical industry in Spain to healthcare professionals is offered to doctors. The country has 217,912 practicing doctors, according to official INE data for 2016, and a large number of them benefit from these scientific activities supported by the industry.
It should be noted that only the average registration to a national scientific congress is 600-700€, an amount that can be increased if the meeting is international. Last year, according to FARMAINDUSTRIA data, 76% of meetings in which the pharmaceutical industry collaborated were national, while the remaining 24% were international meetings.
The congresses are of great importance to keep the doctor up to date on the advancements in his specialty, and every year thousands of specialists come to these scientific appointments both nationally and internationally. Notwithstanding, the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology has brought together more than 38,000 physicians in Chicago, while in Spain attendees at the major primary care societies, for example, stands at 7,000 attendees.
For the president of FARMAINDUSTRIA, “the whole health system, and especially, of course, patients, benefits from the fact that specialists keep their knowledge up to date and know what the main novelties are in each therapeutic area; without forgetting that active participation in congresses can open the door to the participation of Spanish centers in international clinical trials, which at the same time attracts important investments and makes early access of patients to new treatments possible. “In this context,” he adds, “here at FARMAINDUSTRIA we understand that the pharmaceutical industry should cooperate with the health administration and organizations and professionals so that the training of specialists is the best possible for the benefit of society as a whole.”
Value of clinical experience
Payments to professionals and organizations for the provision of services amounted to 79€ million in 2016, 10% less than in 2015. They refer to guidance, consultancy and conference presentations and imply remuneration (which, if applicable, includes travel expenses and maintenance); its characteristics and requirements are delimited in the Code of Good Practices.
These activities allow the pharmaceutical industry to be aware of the behaviour in the clinical practice of medicines, an experience that only health professionals cherish. From there, companies can improve the safety and efficacy of treatments or detect new needs, which is hugely beneficial for the treatment of diseases, for the efficiency of the system and, especially to provide solutions for the patient.
Finally, the pharmaceutical industry made donations and provided subsidies to health organizations providing social or humanitarian health care services worth 35.5€ million, an increase of 8% over the previous year. These contributions must respond to requests of the organizations themselves and are unrelated, since, as stated in the Code of Good Practices, they cannot constitute an incentive for “recommendation, prescription, purchase, supply, sale or administration of medicines.” This type of aid comes in various forms: from monetary contributions for research projects to donations of medicines to humanitarian institutions.
More transparency, more confidence
The publication of the collaborations between the pharmaceutical industry and health organizations and professionals, which is consolidated now for the second year, is a step forward in terms of the wager of the pharmaceutical industry for transparency, linked to the Code of Good Practices and materialized in 2002 with the creation of the Modern Self-Regulation System.
Framed in a continental initiative adopted by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – which belongs to FARMAINDUSTRIA – the publication of the collaborations aims to show society the value and importance of indispensable relations for advancement and prevent potential conflicts of interest that may arise with professionals. Such relationships must always be based on objectivity, rigor and independence, principles that are covered by the Code of Good Practice, which is periodically adapted to the requirements of medical practice and a fair competition.
“The research and development of new drugs and their proper use would not be possible without the close collaboration between industry, health system and health organizations and professionals,” says Jesus Acebillo. The transparency initiative allows organizations, professionals and laboratories to show the value and importance of this collaboration and strengthen the trust of society, and in particular of patients. We all win.”