PAHO dispute over standards for transparency of economic data for pharmaceutical industry

Today the executive board of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is considering a proposal to have more transparency of the economics of the pharmaceutical industry. (I have separately blogged about this on the Huffpo). Specifically, an amendment offered to a PAHO EB resolution on research, proposed the following:

“(j) to develop, with input from Member States, a possible standard for disclosure of economic data for drug registered for sale, including disclosures of the costs of R&D, the prices of products, and the annual revenues from the sale of products.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has opposed this language, and has argued that mandated disclosures of economic data would violate antitrust laws.

The reality is that there are few secrets within the industry about prices, revenues or R&D costs, if you can pay for pricey private sector reports, such as those provided by IMS Health. But the public, academic researchers not on the industry payroll, legislators and government policy makers have access to very little data.

The US SEC requires disclosures of the costs of clinical trials, when the information has a material impact on the value of a stock, and companies routinely put out press statements making all sorts of unsupported claims about the costs of particular trials. These disclosures have never been the basis for an antitrust complaint. But more to the point, the proposal is just to develop a “possible standard” for disclosure, with input from Member States. There would be plenty of time to work out the details of what would be disclosed, and how, including the details of what would identifiable as to the firm or product, when the data would be made public, and what specifically would would be disclosed.

Managing health care systems is complicated enough, but making policy without basic data is even more difficult, and foolhardy.