Earlier this year, the German pharma association FSA implemented the Transparency Code, which means that for the first time all pharmaceutical companies in Germany have to publish all monetary contributions they have paid to medical institutions, doctors and other partners throughout the previous year. Technically speaking, this is not a challenging request. However, companies that carry out their duty and publish those numbers let go of the opportunity to establish a new compliance culture and shape communication around it.
It is more than just a bothersome reporting practice:
The pharmaceutical industry claims their monetary contributions serve to transfer knowledge and help improve medical care. Yet the public is skeptical towards pharmaceutical companies and thus favour the transparent display of pharmaceutical partnerships and financial contributions. Companies that perceive the Transparency Code as a bothersome reporting-practice, and therefore limit their communication to the documentation of their contributions, miss out on a big opportunity. They could be highlighting on collaborative activities and the added value from their cooperation with not only the Transparency Code, but also with the partners they monitarily contribute to. The purpose their contributions should be made clear in terms of what they are serving and how they are advancing the development of pharmaceutical products. This is the main interest of patients and medical associations. This is where communication should start.
There is a need for a new compliance culture:
Future cooperation should be examined more closely to see whether the intended transfer of knowledge results in the improvement of research and medical care. Monetary-only cooperations will be replaced by content-related collaboration. The FSA Transparency Code is a prelude of this change. In the efforts to gain public acceptance and trust, the companies which go beyond regulatory standards will stand out from others. By doing so, they can demonstrate their serious interest in changing the existing structures. The latter is the biggest task as it will significantly impact how different actors collaborate. Consequently, this will lead to a new set of guidelines and rules of compliance.
Communication of change starts now:
In order to actually bring about change in a complex health care system, a comprehensive communication support is indispensable. Companies should actively participate in a constructive public dialogue. This requires being transparent about existing affiliations and their purpose, as well as mediating for future sets of rules. Companies will be evaluated on these points in the upcoming months, and the companies that go beyond communicating just the basics will be among the winners.