July 31, 2021

“Euros for Docs”, a computer epic to make visible the links between the pharmaceutical industry and the medical world

More than 7 billion euros. This is the astronomical sum paid by the pharmaceutical industry to healthcare professionals in eleven European countries in three years (from 2017 to 2019). Fees for a consultant’s activity, intervention in a congress, travel and expenses to attend, seat on a scientific advisory board …: the detail of these largesse that the laboratories count as “Value transfers” is now assembled on Eurosfordocs.eu (“euros for doctors”), a website open to all.

Launched Tuesday 1is June, this database provides access to information extracted from four public registers or from industry transparency initiatives in seven countries. Requests can search the database by name of professional, organization or firm, but also by payment category, country and year. Its name is a nod to the American database “Dollars for Docs”, a pioneer of the genre, offered since 2012 by the investigation site ProPublica.

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Two computer cracks are at the origin of this voluntary project. Helped by students, Pierre-Alain Jachiet and Luc Martinon spent long weeks locating, extracting, cleaning and harmonizing this data before being able to add it to this unique database. “Everything shows that the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on physicians, political institutions and regulatory processes is pernicious, explain the computer scientists. Pressure from the media and citizens is the only solution to change mentalities. ”

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Associations and Industries (Efpia), the lobbying organization for the sector, argues that “Industry collaboration with healthcare professionals benefits patients”. However, two decades of university studies and journalistic surveys have largely shown the opposite: the links of money and reciprocity between laboratories and the world of health secrete conflicts of interest that are harmful both to research, ‘evaluation of health products, advice to public decision-makers, but also and above all for the quality of care provided to patients.

Technical war

Epicenter of transparency on this crucial information long remained in the secret, the American law known as “Sunshine Act”, in 2010, required laboratories to declare in the United States their payments to doctors in a public database. In Europe, only Portugal and France are equipped with comparable legislation.

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