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Medical industry support: Is it Possible to Have too Much Transparency?


In the recently published Thought Leadership Paper: The real impact of increasing transparency on the medical industry’s support of healthcare professionals (HCPs) and healthcare organisations (HCOs), Simon Dufaur and Cerstin Steindorf present the principal dynamics associated with transparency and portray the range of standpoints and opinions related to it.

Theory stipulates that opacity harbours corruption, abuse of power, undue influence and a host of other impieties, whereas transparency allows regulators to hold industry, HCPs and HCOs accountable.


  • Is something that a pharma company mostly controls and that most reassures its shareholders and patients. When drafted and applied correctly, disclosure codes can be an effective tool for creating trust and restoring and maintaining confidence in the medical industry.
  • Increases the cost of hiding the truth and to get transparency right is not only a matter of wherewithal and consent. It calls for the right incentives, and at the same time, the removal of barriers that forestall the ability of many HCPs, their employers and other forms of HCO to self-finance CME.

The problem is not only with the regulations that exist but also with the regulations that do not exist. For example, the standardisation of regulations relating to transparency reporting, compliance and CME would encourage more long-term investment in patient-benefitting, value-generating HCP interactions.

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in business has fallen markedly whilst there has been an unavoidable rise in trust in non-governmental organisations. Because of their situation, patients have no option but to trust. This is why transparency is so intertwined with trust. The EFPIA transparency initiative revokes privacy concerns because the matter is of public interest and due to the voluntarily acceptance of money or in-kind benefits which are supplemental to the official salary. The problem is that “transparency” has such positive connotations and determining the suitable level of detail offered is critical.

Is it possible to have too much transparency?

Openness and honesty offer a window into the inner workings of the company, which also poses a problem because the revealed details are visible not only to the public but also to the company’s competitors.

Excess transparency can even trigger distortions of fact and can hurt effectiveness, particularly with regard to the ability to collaborate. Many bona fide partnerships that serve the educational needs of HCPs or the research needs of industry stand to be imperilled through counterproductive inhibitions and an apprehension of onerous regulatory requirements and statutory exposure.

This problem is not unique to healthcare. Governments, too, are in a similar entanglement. There is growing distrust of the European institutions by citizens across Europe. Experience in the US, where government was equally distrusted, has revealed that greater transparency and openness in the workings of government has not necessarily resulted in trust levels being improved.

The good news is that there is a sweet spot between privacy and transparency, where you can get the benefits of both. The bad news is that the sweet spot is not at all easy to find.


For more information:

Download the full thought leadership paper here
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