There is an overall lack of trust from society in the pharmaceutical industry, Novartis chief executive, Daniel Vasella, told journalists at the company’s financial results conference in Basel, Switzerland, last week. He called for more openness and transparency from the Industry, which has been dogged by scandals, drug withdrawals and clinical data controversy, and also said that open dialogue with the Industry’s critics was essential. Drug companies are even criticised when they do something to help, he explained, saying that firms have even come under fire for providing free drugs to the needy. “It puts others off following suit,” he noted.

He added that people feel deceived when a drug that has been promoted and seems safe, with no potential side effects, is suddenly associated with side effects and withdrawn from the market. “People see the Industry making profits,” he continued, “but they see people without money who can’t afford drugs and think companies are just in it for themselves.” But he warned that taking drugs off patent would not help innovation in the long-term. There would be a short-term profit in terms of cheaper drugs for the patients, but ultimately, it would come with a longer-term cost of sacrificing investment in research.

- Meanwhile, Joerg Reinhardt, head of pharma development with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant told PharmaTimes News Online in an interview that the new clinical trial registry, which will see companies making data public [[07/01/05a]], was a major step forward in terms of transparency. However, he warned that there are pros and cons associated with the move. For example, a great deal of drugs undergoing clinical testing do not actually make it to the market, so there is the danger of raising expectations and giving people false hope, and there is the question of how the public will deal with the information and what the data are actually worth. He went on to say that the move will certainly increase a company’s exposure to its competitors in terms of what trials it is conducting on which drugs. “The competition will be able to see what you are doing much earlier than before,” he concluded.