Mental Health Europe Presents Study on European Sunshine and Transparency Rules in Healthcare
Mental Health Europe (“MHE”), a European non-governmental network organisation active in developing mental health policies, presented on 23 January 2019 its study on transparency rules in European healthcare (“Shedding light on transparent cooperation in healthcare. The way forward for sunshine and transparency laws across Europe” – the “Study”, copy attached).
MHE is of the opinion that there is a lack of transparency about the relationship between what it refers to as the “health industry” (essentially suppliers of medicines and pharmaceuticals) and healthcare professionals (“HCPs”), healthcare organisations (“HCOs”) and patient organisations (“POs”). According to MHE, this is a particular problem in the mental health sector and has created an excessive reliance on medication as the prime form of treatment of mental conditions.
This has prompted MHE to carry out the Study and make a legal analysis of interactions between the life science industries on the one hand and HCPs and HCOs on the other. The scope of the Study is larger than that of similar earlier initiatives (there was, for example, the mapping exercise carried out in 2017 by a team of researchers from academia and a non-governmental organisation – see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 22 March 2018). This is because the Study covers more countries, including countries outside the European Union such as Norway and Russia, and also addresses more than transparency rules (which require the publication of transfers of value) to discuss related anti-corruption and conflict-of-interest legislation.
The countries under review in the Study present a patchwork of mandatory rules and self-regulation with varying scopes of application. This finding has caused MHE to make the following policy recommendations:
- to create minimum standards for the harmonisation of transparency reporting at the European level;
- to establish a comprehensive and binding set of rules governing the disclosure of transfers of value. In the European Union these rules should take the form of a Directive;
- to raise awareness of conflicts of interest in both medical education and medical practice and establish rules to manage such conflicts;
- to broaden scope for independent medical education, including continuing medical education;
- to expand independent funding for “unbiased” research;
- to make users of mental health services more attuned to conflicts of interest.