PharmExec Blog

Europe: Go Easy on Your Pharma Lobbyists

European pharmaceutical executives are sometimes heard to complain that their public affairs departments are not doing a good job for them, and that their industry associations are a waste of time and money.

A report published in Brussels earlier this month suggests that this judgment may be excessively harsh. Lobbyists for healthcare and pharmaceuticals score very high in the study of perceptions among politicians and senior officials in European Union institutions and member states. And industry associations score particularly highly.

Another feather for the cap of drug industry lobbyists is that they are considered to be doing a better job than lobbyists from non-governmental organizations in the healthcare sector. The report “points to a perception of greater industry effectiveness across all sectors,” and “in many cases (including energy, and healthcare and pharmaceuticals) the perceived gap in favor of industry is substantial.”

In addition, the report from Burson Marsteller’s Brussels office says: “Trade associations are seen overall as the most effective lobbyists,” followed by companies, non-governmental organizations and public affairs consultancies, and only then by think-tanks and law firms.

Lobbyists for healthcare and pharmaceuticals score very highly in a study of perceptions among politicians and senior officials in European Union institutions and member states. And industry associations score particularly highly.

Overall, the healthcare and the pharmaceutical sector come in second (after the energy sector), scoring 7.14 out of 10, on a scale where 0 is “very poor” and 10 is “very good.”

It does even better at national level in some countries, including Austria, France, and Germany. Much lower scores were achieved by consumer goods, food and drink, agriculture, transport, financial services, IT and telecommunications, chemicals, mining and natural resources, utilities and public services, and retail.

Among non-governmental organizations, healthcare and pharmaceuticals organizations do best — but their overall effectiveness rating is only 61 percent. In some countries they score better: pharmaceutical lobbying by non-governmental organizations wins 84 percent approval in Germany and Spain, and 77 percent in France.

One of the findings of the report is that politicians and officials are increasingly concerned about transparency — they want lobbyists to be clear about whom they are representing, and clear about what their positions are.

So it will be interesting to see what they make of a new drug industry association, which emerged from the undergrowth almost the same day. This new outfit calls itself ‘COSTEFF’ (derived, it points out, from ‘cost-efficiency’), and although it makes great play of its desire to “encourage innovations” and bring “new impetus for modernising healthcare systems,” it turns out, on closer examination, to be little more than a front organization for a clutch of German parallel importers.Everyone is equally entitled to lobby for influence in the corridors of Brussels, but this association’s rhetoric about “the innovation potential of the healthcare industry” rings rather hollow, given that parallel importers — whatever their merits might or might not be — certainly make little contribution to innovation. So since COSTEFF says “it seeks to position member companies as innovative actors and undertakes therefore advocacy work with the EU institutions and the wider public,”

It should be interesting to see quite how well they fare.


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