Pharmaceutical industry self-regulation and non-transparency: country and company level analysis of payments to healthcare professionals in seven European countries

Shai Mulinari, Luc Martinon, Pierre-Alain Jachiet, Piotr Ozieranski

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The European pharmaceutical industry uses the alleged efficacy of self-regulation to question the need for transparency laws similar to the US Physician Payment Sunshine Act. We conducted a comparative analysis of 20 large companies' payment disclosures in seven European countries in 2017-2019. The data was extracted as part of, a novel transparency project that scrapes and integrates publicly available databases and disclosures. Our analysis of EUR 735 million showed marked differences in country payment patterns. For example, payment totals per registered doctor were substantially larger in Spain and lowest in Sweden. There were significant country and company differences in individualized data completeness. Only 19% of totals were reported with recipient names in Germany, compared to Ireland (59%), the United Kingdom (60%), Italy (67%), Switzerland (73%), Sweden (79%) and Spain (100%), with little or no improvement over time. Payment data in Spain was particularly difficult to extract. Thus, in no country did self-regulation generate comprehensive individualized data allowing for building an accurate picture of financial relationships between the industry and healthcare professionals. We conclude that the cultures and policies of countries and companies create structural problems of data inaccessibility and incompleteness within the self-regulatory framework. Therefore, this study supports calls for a Europe-wide "Sunshine Act" to achieve real transparency of drug company payments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Policy
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2021

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