Our research-based biopharmaceutical industry is unlike any other – our products can prolong and save lives. Because of the very nature of our business, society’s expectations of our industry are high and criticism is harsh when we do not meet these expectations. There is no doubt that this industry brings great value to society in helping to improve global health but we are deeply conscious we can never rest on our laurels. All who work in it, over two million employees, are properly held to higher standards than most because the very nature of our business requires us to win and retain patient trust. Trust is the life-blood of our industry. It goes without saying that key ethical and safety values must be embedded within this highly regulated industry.

Today, as societal expectations step up several gears within a world of ever faster, more and more interconnected change, how we earn and keep the trust is critical. Trust is the basis of reputation and essential for innovation. There is no true innovation without ethical decision making. Doing the right thing creates a competitive advantage and therefore increases shareholder value. Ethical business conduct remains a constant challenge. In a fast-changing world, what was acceptable business practice a few years ago may no longer be adequate today. Thus, IFPMA’s mission which rests on the establishment and promotion of ethical principles for the industry as a whole, has to adapt to societal expectations of ever higher standards.

Our Code of Practice was first drawn up in 1981, and it was the first one of its kind for any sector. Initially, correct information on the effects and side effects of medicines were at the core of the Code. Today, through periodic updates, expectations regarding compliance are much more comprehensive. Updated and revised over the decades, the Code sets out a rules-based compliance framework for clinical research, fees for services, support for continuing medical education, to name but a few. Many local and regional associations rely on the IFPMA Code as guidance for their own codes of conduct.

The last Code revision in 2012 saw its scope expanded beyond marketing practices to cover all interactions with healthcare professionals, medical institutions and patient organizations.

Now, with the new Code, we are setting the bar higher. We are placing a global ban on gifts for any company that is a member of IFPMA, and for all those firms that are members of our regional and national associations. This new revised Code is more principles-based and seeks to embody a deeper and broader appreciation of business integrity. 

Do we and will we get it right 100 percent of the time? No, our member organizations are comprised of fallible human beings who make mistakes. With this new Code, we reaffirm our commitment to take action when mistakes occur. We take these matters seriously because in healthcare, trust is at the center of all we do, and that trust is built up over time by deeds. A company’s reputation can vanish overnight, and in doing so, can tarnish the reputation of an entire industry.

At IFPMA, across our member companies and throughout our national member associations, we need to champion integrity, ethics, and compliance. Implementing the new and revised Code in full is about walking the talk, about earning our license to operate. As with all things, it is work in progress and I am sure more needs to be done. But we will never stop trying to improve.


Thomas Cueni
Director General, IFPMA

Website: www.ifpma.org

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