It is not easy to make good policies on health care reform when you don't have good information. So it is surprising that the Administration is opposing a measure to have more openness about pharma industry economics.
In recent years, there has been a push for greater transparency of the pharmaceutical industry. One aspect of this concerns greater disclosures of the clinical trials on new drugs, including information about the outcomes of those trials. There are also proposals for greater disclosure of potential conflicts of interests with academic researchers and doctors who prescribe medicine.
Today the executive board of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is considering a proposal to have more transparency of the economics of the industry. Specifically, the original proposal was:
"(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."
Unfortunately, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is trying to kill this language, raising a number of bogus objections, including that mandated disclosure 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. This has never been the basis for an antitrust claim.
We are not sure who in the DHHS leadership has been opposing the proposal to merely begin work on transparency standards, but someone in the White House or the Secretary's office should step in and fix things, by supporting the PAHO proposal to work on transparency standards.
Update on the PAHO negotiation is here: