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Pharmaceutical companies regularly fund patient organizations. It is important for patient organizations' credibility that there be transparency regarding this financial support. In Europe, the pharmaceutical industry promises to deliver transparency through self-regulation, as opposed to legally binding provisions, but self-regulation's effectiveness is contested. We compared the industry's transparency of funding in four Nordic countries that, given their general reputation for high transparency, offered a critical test of self-regulation's ability to deliver on its transparency promise. For 2017-2019, we compared: national rules regarding funding disclosure; disclosure practices as evidenced by the availability, accessibility, and format of company transparency reports; and disclosure data, including payment descriptions and sums. Transparency problems differed in kind and magnitude between countries. In Norway and Finland, unlike in Sweden and Denmark, data on funding were difficult to access and analyze and sometimes seemed incomplete or missing. We explain that a key factor allowing for country differences is the freedom given to a country's pharmaceutical industry trade associations to form self-regulatory rules, provided they do not fall below the weak, European-level minimum requirements. Transparency could be improved by aligning rules and practices with the FAIR data principles: that is, corporate disclosures should be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
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