EDITORIAL: Drugs disclosure faces opposition

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) new chief lobbyist, Allison Bartlett, will have her work cut out when she takes up the role next week.

The UK trade body - which represents 100 of the country's pharma companies - faces a major lobbying challenge in Brussels over a Bill before the European Parliament to force drugs firms to provide more information about their new drugs, including those that fail to gain regulatory approval.

The proposals are causing great concern in the drugs industry. European regulators have come under pressure from consumer groups and politicians over concerns about drug safety, and the demand for more information is aimed at serving public over commercial interests. But to demand disclosure of information even on products that are withdrawn does not serve the public interest. Instead, the process could well hamper the introduction of new drugs that would provide relief to patients.

The issue is one of both intellectual property and reputation management.

Disclosing information about products under development is a highly sensitive issue, given that research and development in an intensely competitive industry costs on average £350m for each new medicine, according to the ABPI. If drug firms are forced to divulge this information, it will open the R&D process to more competition, acting as a disincentive to drug producers.

Disclosing information about drugs that have 'failed' approval tests may also prejudice that product's future success and damage the manufacturer's reputation. Neither would serve the public interest - to improve the quality of medicines - where the rigorous approval process does not do so already.

The ABPI is expected to lobby for disclosure on a voluntary rather than obligatory basis. That would serve the public interest.

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