Similar to the U.S. Sunshine Act (as has been explored before on this blog), the French Sunshine Act (“Loi Bertrand”) made mandatory the publication of benefits (in kind or in cash) granted by pharmaceutical laboratories to health professionals, as soon as they reach a certain amount.
An implementing decree published 21 May 2013 has set out in detail its conditions, quickly followed, in December, by a second regulatory text regarding the unique website where those benefits are supposed to be published.
Nevertheless, this body of rules might be amended again soon, with a new draft order released recently by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Healthcare. In view of the modifications it proposes, the regulation of these issues seems to be moving in three different directions:
- Simplification in both the form and substance of the applicable regulation, which concerns, essentially, the health care providers (HCPs) whose agreement(s) with a health care company have to be published: the new text shall simply refer to the current article L.1453-1 of the French Public Health Code, which provides a list substantially similar to the existing one. It also plans to remove some pieces of the information the laboratories are required to make public (qualification, title, college register number, event’s schedule…). In other words, same substance but less detail. It is important to keep in mind that the amount of the payments made to HCPs through these agreements does not need to be disclosed under French law.
- Regarding the website where the declaration of interests should be made, the Sunshine Act sets forth that personal data of the HCPs (data that would allow, according to EU regulation, the identification of HCPs either directly or indirectly) is to be protected against indexing on search engines. The draft order reduces the scope of such protection, maintaining only protections of the “directly identifying data” against this type of indexing.
- Last but not least, the main purpose of the draft is obviously to change the schedule initially set up to declare the benefits and the conventions: it removes the existing 15-day deadline after the signature of the convention, and allows the advent of a biannual schedule. The draft order goes even further by postponing the declarations regarding the benefits granted in 2012 and 2013 to August 2015, and its publication on the unique website to October 2015. In the meantime, rules are drafted to organize a publication on the personal websites of the companies.
Setting up the new transparency requirements in France obviously takes more time than expected…