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[e-drug] Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector

E-DRUG: Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector

Dear e-drug readers,

Recently published by Transparency International, this report could interest 
some of you


Best regards


Etienne Guillard - PharmD, MSc
Health Systems & Services Strengthening Director SOLTHIS 
Etienne Guillard <etienne.guillard@solthis.org>

Executive summary
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 signals a 
more comprehensive global development agenda. This plan specifies that all 
governments must fight corruption. For the health sector, this will mean 
integrating good governance into policy making and implementation to reduce the 
risk of corruption. Within the health sector, pharmaceuticals stands out as 
sub-sector that is particularly prone to corruption. There are abundant 
examples globally that display how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector 
endangers positive health outcomes. Whether it is a pharmaceutical company 
bribing a doctor for prescribing its medicines irrespective of a health need or 
a government employee facilitating the infiltration of substandard medicines 
into the distribution system, public resources can be wasted and patient health 
put at risk.

For policy makers to implement successful anti-corruption measures there is a 
need to identify and understand corruption vulnerabilities in the 
pharmaceutical sector. To support this task this paper identifies key policy 
and structural issues in selected activities of the pharmaceutical value chain, 
along with relevant anti-corruption policies. This analysis showed that 
anti-corruption policies are needed throughout the pharmaceutical value chain 
to increase transparency around key decision points and strengthen the 
accountability of actors.

Four overarching challenges derived from structural issues and anti-corruption 
policies across the selected activities of the value chain have been 
identified. These are:

� A lack of objective data and understanding of corruption inhibited by 
environmental context, the complexity of issues in the sector and policy makers 
not viewing corruption as an issue.
� A weak legislative and regulatory framework because of poor investment, a 
lack of oversight and national regulatory frameworks that are often 
decentralised and reliant on self-regulation for key decision-point.
� The potential for undue influence from companies due to a high degree of 
autonomy over key decision points and unparalleled resources, on policy and 
regulation so profit maximisation goes beyond ethical norms and negatively 
impacts health outcomes and public health objectives.
� A lack of leadership committed to anti-corruption efforts from all actors. 
National leaders often only implement reforms after a crisis, with their 
inaction regularly hindering other actors.

Similarly, three key action areas to mitigate corruption vulnerabilities in the 
pharmaceutical sector are examined. These include establishing leadership 
committed to addressing corruption, adopting technology throughout the value 
chain and ensuring accountability through increased monitoring, enforcement and 

These overarching challenges and action areas are neither novel nor 
resource-intensive, stressing the lack of effective action in the past; as well 
as the difficulty of dealing with corruption in a sector that is extremely 
complex, has a high level of government intervention and often has regulatory 
systems in place that are inadequate to properly govern the value chain. Only 
by overcoming these challenges and focusing on these action areas will the 
global health community be better able to meet the health Sustainable 
Development Goals.
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