Report: Big Pharma mounts secret attack against data transparency rule

While Big Pharma's two big trade groups on both sides of the Atlantic have mounted a vigorous counterattack against proposed European rules requiring companies to open up their data vaults, they've been secretly coordinating a flank attack by patient groups, according to The Guardian.

The British paper got a peek at a memo from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the U.S.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) outlining their strategy to get allied patient groups to complain that the transparency move would raise fears of a public health scare triggered by the misinterpretation of the data.

"It's incredibly ironic that this is a transparency initiative and we've now got clear indications that the pharmaceutical industry is ready to use patient organizations to fight their corner," Tim Reed, of Health Action International, tells The Guardian.

The memo went out to all the top companies: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Novartis ($NVS) in Europe; Eli Lilly ($LLY), Pfizer ($PFE) and Merck ($MRK) in the U.S.

A Glaxo spokesperson noted that the company has been leading the movement toward greater transparency and isn't involved in this campaign. GSK is distancing itself from the controversy as it struggles to come up with a coherent response in the wake of accusations in China that company reps routinely bribed physicians to use its products. Ditto for Roche ($RHHBY), which has been following GSK's lead. "To our knowledge Roche has not been involved in any EFPIA's potential activity in mobilizing patient groups to express concern about the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data," a company spokesperson said.

Lilly issued a nondenial: "Lilly is committed to working with Europe-based patient advocacy organizations for the benefit of patients in a way that is true to the EFPIA code of practice and Lilly's integrity in business policy." And there's no word from the rest.

It was the questionable business ethics of Big Pharma that led to the whole transparency movement to begin with. Hit repeatedly by critics lashing out over secret data that would have exposed severe safety issues in the past, the industry has vowed to clean up its act. Stories like these, though, especially as many of the same companies face corruption inquiries abroad, may well prove a major setback for all of these companies. 

- here's the article from The Guardian