Open Pharma campaign seeks pharmaceutical transparency

Published On June 21, 2017 | By tylerbiggs | News

Dr. Andrew Boozary, left, with Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, is spearheading the Open Pharma campaign, seeking to build momentum for federal action. (Courtesy: Toronto Star, Andrew Francis Wallace)

By: Genia Kuypers

The Open Pharma campaign, spearheaded by Dr. Andrew Boozary, resident physician at St Micheal’s Hospital in Toronto, wants to change the disclosure policies of Canadian pharmaceutical companies.

The campaign’s mission is to create and protect the patient-physician relationship, allowing for transparency. “We need to ensure that there is trust in what we’re trying to accomplish,” Boozary said.

Boozary, along with twelve other physicians, medical academics, and medical specialists, are calling on the federal government to mandate public disclosure.

However, the data released yesterday at 10 a.m. was nothing short of a “disappointment,” said Boozary.

The aggregated data came from ten pharmaceutical companies in Canada, that agreed to voluntarily release the total amounts they pay doctors and organizations, however, will not be providing names or details.

Open Pharma advisors were not consulted on what was released.

Boozary said the aggregated numbers are not enough.

“What does that really do? For patients, what do those large numbers mean? They aren’t clear. It’s not helpful.”

The data is separated into three categories: fees to healthcare providers for the services, funding to healthcare organizations, and funding for healthcare professionals’ travel.

One pharmaceutical company, Roche Canada, went a step further and also disclosed the number they invested into medical research, which totaled $14.7 million CAD.

Adalsteinn Brown, chair of Dalla Lana School of Public Health spoke with Humber News about the release of the data.

“It’s a good start but I don’t think that will change how people think about what’s going on,” Brown said.

Some pharmaceutical companies gave payments in the millions.

Purdue Pharma’s fees totals $2,060,000 CAD, and Eli Lilly Canada Inc. follows closely behind with $1,197,926 CAD.

Joel Lexchin, an emergency room doctor at the University Health Network and professor of health policy at York University, also commented on the campaign.

“What these companies are doing is really inadequate in terms of the kind of information that could potentially be made available.”

Lexchin emphasized that in order for this to be enough, patients should have access to their doctor’s individual information.

Policies similar to Open Pharma already exist in the USA, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and many other European countries.

The payments can come in many different forms, varying from dinners, travel expenses, speaking appearances and research honoraria.

“It needs to be disclosed, and it needs to be disclosed in a way that people can work with it,” Brown said.

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