Sunshine Policies and Murky Shadows in Europe: Disclosure of Pharmaceutical Industry Payments to Health Professionals in Nine European Countries

Document Type : Short Communication


1 Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Pharmacy, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

2 Health Action International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Faculty of Medicine and Institute of Clinical and Preventive Medicine, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia

4 Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden


Relationships between health professionals and pharmaceutical manufacturers can unduly influence clinical practice. These relationships are the focus of global transparency efforts, including in Europe. We conducted a descriptive content analysis of the transparency provisions implemented by February 2017 in nine European Union (EU) countries concerning payments to health professionals, with duplicate independent coding of all data. Using an author-generated, semi-structured questionnaire, we collected information from each disclosure policy/code on: target industries, categories of healthcare professionals covered, scope of payments included, location and searchability of the disclosed data. Our analysis shows that although important improvements have been put in place in the past few years, significant gaps remain in disclosure requirements and their implementation. The situation differs substantially from country to country and the most striking differences are between governmental and self-regulatory approaches, especially with regard to the comprehensiveness of the disclosed data. In many cases, individuals can still opt out and reporting is incomplete, with common influential gifts such as food and drink excluded. Finally, in several countries data are only available as separate PDFs from companies, thus making the payment reports difficult to access and analyse. In order to overcome these gaps, minimum standards for disclosures should be implemented across Europe. All payments to healthcare professionals and organizations should be included, all health-related industries should be required to submit reports, and usability of disclosed data should be guaranteed.


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Main Subjects

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  • Receive Date: 30 October 2017
  • Revise Date: 19 January 2018
  • Accept Date: 24 February 2018
  • First Publish Date: 01 June 2018