Promoting ethical behavior in the pharma industry


Unethical behavior negatively impacts business performance, reputation, and access to funding and financing. It is a liability for businesses, said the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).  

According to an APEC study titled “The Benefits of Embracing Ethical Business Conduct,” businesses that deploy dishonest approaches often do so to fulfill their short-term financial objectives. In the long term, however, the said conduct will adversely impact the business to a greater extent than the initial advantages obtained. It said that dishonest business practices can later on lead to increased costs. 

On the other hand, ethical behavior results in desirable business outcomes. The same APEC reference cited a study which found that an increase in the corporate value index is associated with the firm’s performance. Moreover, the benefits of an ethical reputation can also have a competitive advantage as a company distinguishes itself from its competitors. It added that companies that have strong, values-based corporate culture showed improved employee engagement, and increased overall positive reputation. 

In the healthcare community, unethical behavior hurts not just businesses. It also brings harm to patients and deprives them of quality and appropriate healthcare they deserve. Ethical interactions, meanwhile, help ensure that medical decisions are made in the best interests of patients. They also level the playing field and encourage robust competition in the industry. 

With this, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) ratified its own Code of Practice, an internationally aligned Code that is a requirement for PHAP membership. The Code is implemented through an independent Ethics Committee and cascaded to PHAP members through a pioneering module called the Integrity and Proficiency Program for the Pharmaceutical Sector (IPPS). The IPPS, registered under the Professional Regulation Commission, offers science-related information and provides modules on laws and codes that must guide all interactions with healthcare professionals, the government, and patients, among others. 

As a member of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), PHAP fully subscribes to the IFPMA Ethos. The Ethos has overarching values namely trust, care, fairness, respect and honesty. This set of core values and principles helps ensure that their interactions with healthcare professionals and the broader health community are appropriate and in line with the expectations of the society. The Ethos underpins the rules and provides a framework to behave with integrity no matter how testing the circumstances are. 

The Philippine government has achieved milestones when it comes to the campaign for integrity in the healthcare community. In 2011, the Mexico City Principles for Voluntary Codes of Business Ethics for the Biopharmaceutical Sector was endorsed by heads of states of APEC member economies, including the Philippines. In interacting with healthcare professionals and other stakeholders, PHAP member companies are guided by the six Mexico City Principles. 

The first principle is healthcare and patient focus which means that everything we do is intended to benefit patients. The second principle is integrity which means dealing ethically, honestly and respectfully in everything we do. 

Third is independence which means to respect the need for autonomous decision-making of all parties, free from improper influence. Fourth is legitimate intent which means everything we do is for the right reasons, is lawful, and aligns with the spirit and the values of these Principles. Fifth is transparency which means a general willingness to be open about our actions while respecting legitimate commercial sensitivities and intellectual property rights. Finally, accountability means a willingness to be responsible for our actions and interactions. 

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration also adopted and implemented the Mexico City Principles in September 2013. The Department of Health which created a Committee for the Creation and Adoption of the Mexico City Principles and Kuala Lumpur Principles for Medical Device Sector Codes of Business Ethics, must also be commended for pushing the integrity campaign forward. 

In accordance with the Nanjing Declaration to Promote Ethical Environments in the Medical Device and Biopharmaceutical Sectors (2014–2020), PHAP is also working with the government, healthcare professionals, and non-government organizations (NGOs) — in particular, patient organizations — to promote ethical environments in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors. 

Ethical principles are universal and reinforce Filipino values. Because of the unique role of ethical behavior in positively affecting the health and lives of patients, the pharmaceutical industry must always be committed to ethical behavior at all times. 

Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are at the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.