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 judgement may be excessively harsh. Lobbyists for healthcare and pharmaceuticals score very highly 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 organisations 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 & pharmaceuticals) the perceived gap in favour 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 organisations and public affairs consultancies, and only then by think-tanks and law firms.
Overall, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector comes in second (after the energy sector), scoring 7.14 out of ten, 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 & drink, agriculture, transport, financial services, IT & telecommunications, chemicals, mining & natural resources, utilities & public services, and retail.
Among non-governmental organisations, healthcare and pharmaceuticals organisations do best — but their overall effectiveness rating is only 61%. In some countries they score better: pharmaceutical lobbying by non-governmental organisations wins 84% approval in Germany and Spain, and 77% 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 organisation 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. The chances of winning any awards for transparency, anyway.