As discussed in an earlier blog (Bonjour Amigo, 3/27/06) the issue of an informed and empowered patient is at last gaining traction in Europe. Here are some comments from the panelists:
James Copping (Principal Administrator, European Commission Enterprise & Industry Directorate-General)
* Part of the problem of course is that information and advertising are not mutually exclusive; legislation cannot decide it, although it has to play a role.
Colin Webb (Patient Advocate Representative on the Enterprise & Industry Directorate General)
* We are in this ludicrous situation in Europe, where anyone is free to give information, quite legally, about pharmaceutical products, except the industry which makes them.
* Many points made by Peter Pitts about DTCA are important and we can learn from those lessons. As both Peter and Colin said, the focus has to be on communication. The key issue is to think about how we can go forward.
* The member states have all the power in terms of patient information, but often not the resources needed. One key constituency — the industry — conversely has the resources, but not the power to engage. From the Commission’s perspective, there has to be a balance which allows us to put resources, skills and knowledge to good use without threatening the states’ responsibility for health care and control of health systems and pharmaceutical budgets.
* From the Commission’s point of view, we want a system where patients can be empowered to take an equal part in health care decisions. To do that, they need more information and we all want to make high-quality information available as soon as possible. We believe that all stakeholders have a role to play to provide this information, but the tricky issue for us is to find the appropriate framework which national regulatory authorities can live with.
* We have an unsustainable mix of regulations, focused very heavily on the statutory information, and the legislation on advertising was largely drafted in the 1980s, before the Internet became a daily feature of many people’s lives. This needs to be addressed in the review.
* The pharmaceutical industry has a lot to contribute because of their resources, skills and expertise and we have seen in the working group that the industry plays a constructive part. It’s amazing to me that an industry which plays such an important part of our health care is often seen on par with the tobacco or the oil industry. It’s not clear to me why this is the case, but we need to develop good working relationships between all of us. We all agree that we need good quality information, but none of us can do it alone.
The entire argument is really not whether information should be given to the wider public; generally people agree to this. The question is: who is going to be the gatekeeper?
For a full transcript of the debate, please visit www.cmpi.org