The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and National Voices have jointly produced a guide to support collaboration between the voluntary sector and pharmaceutical companies.
Despite different motivations, the pharmaceutical and voluntary sectors share one ultimate objective; improving the health of patients. Improving outcomes for patients is part of the charitable mission of many health charities, while delivering medicines that address patients' unmet need means that the uptake of new medicines is likely to increase with greater demand for pharmaceutical companies' products.
There are many examples of productive joint-working between charities and pharmaceutical companies. From making sure that the right medicines are being researched, to increasing participation in clinical trials, to better understanding the needs of patients, throughout the pharmaceutical development and delivery chain there are opportunities for companies and charities to collaborate, their own benefit and for the benefit of patients.
There are also a variety of possible barriers to effective collaboration, not least the broad difficulties that any organisation can have when working with another, including differences in house style or project-management systems. But the perceived barriers between health charities and pharmaceutical companies can seem even more difficult to overcome.
One perceived barrier is that the corporate nature of the pharmaceutical sector is at odds with the charity sector. With pharmaceutical companies ultimately seeking profit, some charities may be fearful that their reputation as a charitable organisation could be damaged through collaboration.
Another potential barrier is the voluntary ABPI Code of Practice. The Code has rules to restrict undue pharmaceutical company influence over charities. These rules are not designed to prevent collaboration but some companies, fearful of breaching the Code, are cautious about entering into any kind of collaboration.
Our recently published guide seeks to address some of these challenges and enable companies and charities to collaborate effectively. Jointly produced by National Voices and the ABPI, and overseen by a steering group, which I chaired, the guide outlines the benefits that can be realised through collaboration and provides common-sense guidance on the risks. Its ultimate aim is to ensure that collaborations work well for both parties and, ultimately, for patients.
The guide sets out four principles for collaboration:
Although the guide does not provide specific recommendations, it does provide a checklist to go through while considering a collaboration. This checklist includes things like; ensuring that the outcomes and objectives of the collaboration are specified; having a written agreement between parties; and ensuring that information about the collaboration is available on both parties' websites.
Previous guidance and direction does exist in this area, but there is nothing which covers the full range of issues, addresses charities and industry together, or fully promotes mutual understanding. We feel this is a valuable contribution to an issue that should ultimately lead to genuine benefits for patients. It is now up to companies and charities entering into collaborations to ensure that these outcomes are delivered.
Harry Cayton CBE is Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority, he chaired the Steering Group which oversaw development of Working Together, delivering for patients: A guide to collaboration between charities and pharmaceutical companies in the UK. The Steering Group was made up of representatives from both pharmaceutical companies and charities. Wider input was also sought, with two workshops, an online survey and structured interviews with representatives from across the health sector.