AT A GLANCE: ABPI offers guidelines on new research data

What’s all this about?
Medical data,  including information from clinical trials,  can provide a valuable source for the development of future medicines – perhaps in terms of previously unthought of applica­t­ions, for example. But there is an obv­ious patient confidentiality issue so the Association of the British Pharma­ceu­tical Industry (ABPI) has drawn toget­her existing legislation such as the Data Protection Act, along with indus­try best practice, to create a new standard.

And this affects healthcare PROs?
Definitely. It is another tool with which the pharma community can promote itself as upholding strict legal and ethi­cal standards. There is a tension over  privacy, and these guidelines lay out when it would be acceptable for data to be made available to resear­chers.

Is there a reputation management aspect to this as well?
Yes, because patients have to feel that their trust will not be abused. In-house PROs can point to their company’s ad­herence to these guidelines as a means of illustrating how patients’
int­erests are being safeguarded.

Does this fit into a wider pharma comms trend?
Yes, the broad trend towards greater transparency which pharma compa­nies have embraced. GSK set up its clinical trials register a couple of years ago to publish all trials data on its marketed prescription medicines and vaccines, for example. And only this month Eli Lilly & Company announ­ced it would post online all its educat­ional grant funding and contrib­ut­ions to other US organi­sat­ions (PRWeek, 11 May).

Is the ABPI doing anything else?
This week, the organisation held its second annual Code Awareness Day in which it publicised the code of practice – a different one from these new research guidelines. This sets out the ethical standards that the pharma industry should meet when dealing with health professionals. It covers issues such as the  type of venues at which  it is acceptable for companies to entertain doctors.

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