Legislation to Promote Transparency in the Relationship between Physicians and Pharmaceutical Companies

The relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies (PCs) is of concern to policymakers in Israel and abroad. Such a relationship has inherent ethical issues, particularly regarding the potential influence that the companies may have on physicians. Efforts to address these issues include legislation and self-regulation. In 2010, the Israeli legislature passed Section 40A of the National Health Insurance Law, requiring both sides to report the donating and receiving of all funds transferred from commercial companies to health providers.

The study examined Israeli policymakers’ perceptions of the relationship and the role of legislation in this context and its impact on the relationship. The study was based on 42 in-depth interviews with senior officials at the Ministry of Health, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, medical associations, patients’ associations and journalists. In addition, it examined three databases containing information on donations and funds transferred from the PCs to individuals and organizations within the health system: the Ministry of Health database (based on the reports required by law), the Pharma-Israel database, and the Israel Medical Association database. All three databases are available to the public.

The study examined, inter alia, the perceptions and opinions of the respondents about the following:

  • Has there been a change in recent years in the relationships between physicians and the PCs?
  • What are the factors that affected these changes and how much impact did the legislation have?
  •  What are the main problems you identify in the current relationship and regulation?
  •  Do you have any suggestions as to how to strengthen regulation of the relationship between the physicians and PCs?

The study findings were intended to assist key players in the Israeli health system to understand the role of legislation in the fabric of the relationship, to indicate the factors that have the greatest or least impact on the relationship, and to propose methods to address the issues arising from the relationship.

The study is of paramount importance in the international arena – other countries are also struggling with the drawbacks of such relationships and are pursuing different strategies of legislation and self-regulation to contend with the issues that it brings up.

The study findings have been presented at a number of national conferences and in various forums with the goal of stimulating discussion of the findings and their implications for regulation of the relationship.

The study was funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research.

Citing suggestion: Nissanholtz-Gannot, R., Yankellevich, A., & Nirel, N. (2016). Legislation to Promote Transparency in the Relationship between Physicians and Pharmaceutical Companies. RR-701-16. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)