Dr Brendan Shaw, chief executive of Medicines Australia, writes:
There has been some discussion over the past week about News Ltd’s commercial arrangement with Medicines Australia to promote the value of The Australian Medicines Industry. Some of it warrants clarification.
An important part of Medicines Australia’s job in representing the Australian medicines industry is ensuring the public know what we do and why we do it.
Most Australians just don’t think about who makes the medicines they take when they get sick. They know very little about The Australian Medicines Industry.
So we decided to start a conversation with the Australian public about what the medicines industry is, and what we do. Because it also became clear to us that once people actually realise that we have a vibrant medicines industry in Australia they want to know more about how we contribute to the health and wealth of the nation.
That is why we’re determined to talk to consumers about the fact that we have a medicines industry in Australia that does great science, attracts more than $1 billion a year in medical research investment so that our scientists in laboratories, universities and hospitals can keep searching for the next new life-saving medicines.
Our messages are based on the fact that every year we undertake more than 700 hundred clinical trials involving 18,000 Australians. And that every day, behind the scenes, 14,000 members of The Australian Medicines Industry are working tirelessly to make sure patients all over the country get the medicines they need.
The Australian Medicines Industry is a great local success story that’s waiting to be told, so we partnered with the commercial team at News Limited to help us tell it. And as has since been made very clear, the partnership did not extend to any influence whatsoever over editorial content, and nor did we expect it or want it.
The agreement arose out of meetings between News Ltd and Medicines Australia which recognised common interests. News was interested in creating a ‘Health of the Nation’ series and vehicle to stimulate consideration, discussion and debate about health issues in Australia with its readership. Medicines Australia was interested in a communication platform to raise awareness of The Australian Medicines Industry as ‘supporting Australia’s health’ and get Australians thinking about the industry.
It’s important that people understand the contribution The Australian Medicines Industry makes to the health and wealth of the nation, and I stand behind the commercial arrangement we made to help us do it.
The Australian Medicines Industry program is based on facts. The industry is a major exporter and R&D performer. The industry does employ 14,000 Australians in companies around Australia doing a range of real jobs.
There are researchers developing new medicines. There are people working as sales reps with your local doctor. There are people working in factories in Australia that manufacture medicines for export. All of these people are committed to building successful businesses and providing treatments for diseases to the community.
Even the people from the industry in the Australian Medicines Industry ads are real people working in real companies in real jobs in the industry.
The industry is responsible for making the medicines and vaccines that treat peoples’ illnesses.
And let’s be clear. The information campaign is designed to promote the industry to the general public, not promote any individual medicines or brands of medicines.
It’s time for us to act like grown-ups and recognise that you can have corporate partnerships without there automatically being a conflict of interest. Yes, there needs to be good ethical principles around what is being done and we do need to constantly make sure this is the case.
But automatically assuming that because there is a company involved in a partnership instantly means there must be a conflict of interest or some hidden agenda is wrong.
I think the industry’s contribution to Australia’s community and economy a fantastic story and it’s about time we told it.
For recent related articles:
• Meanwhile, this post from last year has some other relevant background regarding media and medical conflicts of interest.