If you are reading this blog post, chances are that you are working for a pharma or med-tech company. If so, you are probably spending a sizeable portion of your time ensuring that such company does not get involved in corruption (even more so, if your role specifically entails the duty of complying with the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the United Kingdom Anti Bribery Act (ABA), or Italian 231 legislation).
The fight against corruption can often feel lonely and unrewarding. While the mission of instilling ethical principles into the company’s money-making activities may be inspiring, the day-to-day reality of compliance can, at times, feel disheartening.
Sometimes “compliance” seems at odds with “business”. Compliance people need to emphasize pessimistic worst-case scenarios, which at times appear to be completely opposed to the bright optimistic viewpoint of business people. Often compliance is confined to saying “NO”, when the sales people repeat, over and over, “BUT OUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING IT!”
Here are a few reasons why you should never, ever!, give up.
- You are doing this for your company.
While you may be, in fact, stopping or delaying certain sales of your company, you are truly protecting the company from the horrendous sanctions that it could suffer under the FCPA, the ABA or 231 legislation. Anybody within your company should be grateful since you are ultimately saving the company’s existence. As a result, you are saving the jobs of the company’s employees.
- You are helping your fellow citizens.
Corruption has a cost. Many entities, like Transparency International and its Italian chapter, have attempted to measure it. Certain sources estimate that corruption costs 20% of the total health expenses of a country. Eradicating corruption would thus mean a more efficient national health system, which would turn into more health services… and less taxes.
Bribes can be offered by companies, but can also be requested by doctors. For a long time life sciences’ companies were interacting with doctors (who are public officials, under Italian law) who seemed to have a low sensitivity to corruption risks, as well as very little sympathy for compliance procedures of such companies. While companies in Italy had seriously started their anti-corruption battles about a decade ago, it seemed that doctors lagged behind.
This may now be changing as doctors are taking an active role in fighting corruption. In Italy, for instance, entities like Transparency International Italia and AGENAS have been working to involve doctors, too. On February 22, 2017 the medical societies Associazione Italiana Medici (AIM), Segretariato Italiano Giovani Medici (SIGM) and Segretariato Italiano Studenti in Medicina (SISM) have publicly endorsed the initiative “Cure Corruption”. Diabetologists (Associazione Medici Diabetologi (AMD) have also recently pointed to the close connection between sustainability of the health system and ethical interactions among its players (see the remarks by Maria Franca Mulas).
This is a very welcome development, as synergies between public administration, companies and doctors could really step up the fight against corruption and prompt a cultural change that will help the health system as a whole.