Each relationship will be different; therefore the same approach may not work for every relationship. It is important that both parties take time to get to know each other, preferably with one or more face to face meetings.
Because of this, the start of a potential new relationship is an important opportunity to consider:
- What are the goals and objectives of each organisation? Which of these do we have in common?
- Do the values and mission of the potential partner align with the values and mission of your organisation? To assist potential partners discover whether their values and missions are aligned, the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) provides useful talking points in ‘Top tips for working with pharmaceutical companies’.
- What will we each do to achieve the agreed objectives?
- Is this relationship consistent with our overall organisational goals?
- Has each party developed a policy for working together?
- Has the potential partner worked with others? If so, was it a success? Why? Why not?
- What other related projects or relationships may impact this relationship?
- Will the funding arrangement be perceived as inappropriate? Why?
- Who will own the products of the relationship?
- How will we ensure that intellectual property is protected?
- How will we evaluate the results of the relationship?
- Have we considered the sustainability of the project?
Questions specifically for health consumer organisations
- What is the best department of the pharmaceutical company to work with?
- What sort of acknowledgement or endorsement does the pharmaceutical company expect?
- Do we have the resources required to achieve the goals of the relationship?
- Have we considered the benefits and risks of the type of funding or sponsorship involved?
- If the funding for the relationship ceases, what impact will that have on the sustainability of our organisation?
- Is the pharmaceutical company a member of Medicines Australia? Check if the company is a member of Medicines Australia by visiting the website. If the company is a member, it is bound by Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct. Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct sets the standards for the ethical marketing and promotion of prescription medicines in Australia. It complements the legislative requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Regulations and the Therapeutic Goods Act.
Questions for research-based pharmaceutical companies
- Does the health consumer organisation have the people, resources and capacity to achieve the relationship goals?
- What is the health consumer organisation’s decision-making process, and how long will it normally take to formalise decisions? How does this fit with our own internal decision making processes? Will this delay project timelines?
- Will the collaboration continue to deliver on either/both of the following:
- contribute to enhancing the quality use of medicines
- improve patient welfare or outcomes
Understanding sole funding
Sole funding may be appropriate in some instances, but it is important that the relationship is documented and disclosed. The consumer health organisation may also develop a statement for their website, outlining how they work together with pharmaceutical companies. It is not advisable that support should be conditional on being the sole supporter or exclusivity. If there is a sole funding, both parties are advised to explore opportunities to partner with other parties in the longer term (i.e. more than 3 years).
Where possible consumer health organisations should seek out partnership opportunities for initiatives with more than one research-based pharmaceutical company but this may not be possible in all situations.
Consider the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations’ (IAPO’s) two key documents that address issues of transparency and independence:
- ‘Framework for interaction’
- ‘Project agreement’