Patient groups have been brought into the pharmaceutical industry’s battle against proposals by European regulators to force drug companies to publish all their research data.
Currently, drug companies only publish a small part of their results, keeping most of the data secret.
Regulators want to ban this practise so independent scientists can reanalyse the results and check companies’ claims about safety and efficiency.
According to a memo addressed to senior industry figures, seen by the Guardian, the pharmaceutical industry is planning on mobilising patient groups to lobby against these plans.
The memo was drawn up by two large trade groups, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). It was addressed to directors and legal counsel at Roche, Merck, Pfizer, GSK, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Novartis, as well as many smaller companies, and was leaked by a drugs company employee, according to The Guardian.
It describes a four-way campaign that starts with ‘mobilising patient groups to express concern about the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data’. This means the groups should raise concerns that this new regulation could lead to information being misinterpreted by scientists causing a health scare.
Although some drug companies have been open to revealing more data, most of the pharmaceutical industry says doing so will reveal trade secrets, put patient privacy at risk and be misread by scientists.
A review of medical research estimated that only half of all clinical trials are published in full, with positive data being twice as likely to be published.
A recent review of medical research estimated that only half of all clinical trials were published in full, and that positive results were twice as likely to be published than those that were negative.
Speaking to the Guardian, Health Action International’s Tim Reed said: "The memo underlines the fact that patient groups who are in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry will go into battle for them.
"There’s a hidden agenda here. The patient groups will say they think it’s a great idea to keep clinical trials data secret. Why would they do that? They would do that because they are fronts for the pharmaceutical industry."
The other parts of the campaign include speaking with scientific associations about the risks of data sharing and working with other business that are worried about releasing trade secrets.
A GSK spokesperson told the Guardian: "This is not something we are doing. One of the reasons we’re involved in this is we want more companies to move towards greater transparency."
While a A Lilly spokesman added: "Lilly is committed to working with Europe-based patient advocacy organisations for the benefit of patients in a way that is true to the EFPIA code of practice and Lilly’s integrity in business policy."
Image: A drugs company employee released a memo outlining the pharmaceutical industry’s strategy to oppose new EU proposals. Photo: courtesy of Alaa Hamed.