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Search Sponsorship, Inducements and Conflicts of Interest

There is no such thing as a free lunch” Milton Friedman

Advocacy for the independence and integrity of the medical profession and of the scientific evidence base
lies at the core of all IBFAN´s work. The International Code says a categorical “no” to any financial or material inducements to promote products within its scope. Moreover, the Code provides guidance on the acceptance and disclosure of any contribution or sponsorship of fellowship, study tours, research grants, attendance of conferences  by health professionals. However, new inducements have been invented to circumvent the provisions of the Code. New categories of health professionals are increasingly targeted by these industry inducements: now that associations of medical doctors are taking a strong stand against industry
sponsorship, industry is turning to midwives and their midwifery associations.

IBFAN has therefore successfully advocated for strong World Health Assembly resolutions to address this growing problem. The most recent, in 2005 (click here... for World Health Assembly Resolution 2005HA 58.32), calls up on governments "to ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young child health do not create conflicts of interest". This 2005 resolution
also addresses the problem of research articles funded by the private sector with a commercial interest in
infant feeding, which are then used in promotional drives to increase product sales. The resolution urges governments "to ensure that research on infant and young child feeding, which may form the basis for public policies, always contain a declaration relating to conflicts of interest and is subject to independent peer review". 

IBFAN has incorporated the 2005 WHA resolution into our Position Statement on Sponsorship and Conflict of Interest, which was published and widely distributed in 2006.

IBFAN Position Statement on Sponsorship and Conflict of Interest
IBFAN Position Déclaration sur les commandites et les conflits d'intérêts

To disentangle the overly close relationships between individual professionals and the private sector or institutions and private sector, it is essential to clarify conflict of interest rules, strengthen their application
and have a transparent public debate about the role and ultimate interests of the industry.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and Conflicts of Interest

Since the adoption of the 2002 Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, IBFAN has been
concerned about the lack of understanding of the term "conflict of interest" and "accepted principles for avoiding conflict of interest". Neither WHO nor UNICEF could provide a definition or specific guidance. IBFAN-GIFA thus attempted to address this gap and published our theoretical and practical reflections on conflicts of interest and policy implementation to assist in dialogue with the medical profession. IBFAN focuses especially
on those private partners that have adverse or opposing interests or behave in ways that are not in line with our identity and values, rather than on all private partners. In view of current trends, this theoretical
framework is becoming more necessary than ever.

Conflicts of Interest and Policy Implementation

Our concern over the growing trend towards PPPs continues; the risks are summarised by United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD) [1] "Partnerships provide opportunities for corporate image enhancement and policy influence through privileged access to developing country governments and multilateral organizations. Many also constitute a vehicle for market penetration, preferential access to developing country markets and other means of increasing the competitive advantage of TNCs."

Building on Quicksand
We the People or We the Corporations
Beyond Pragmatism: Appraising UN-Business Partnerships.

IBFAN is particularly concerned that using the term "partnership" is misleading and potentially dangerous
since it evokes ideas of "mutual trust" and "shared benefits" as the basis for interaction, as highlighted by
all the proponents of PPPs.

PPPs for Health: A trend with no alternatives?
PPPs and Health for All

This casts aside the key principle that the beneficiaries should be the countries and their communities and peoples, not the for-profit sector. Moreover, many such arrangements are not new, perhaps with the
exception of those where industry acquires positions where it is recognized as a legitimate policy-making "partner" and it is those arrangements that IBFAN opposes. It is not in the public interest to have the private sector co-designing and deciding public health policy matters. Neither is it in the public interest for such policy-setting to be based on research on infant and young child feeding that is supported and sponsored by companies with a vested commercial bias. The scientific evidence-base for policy-setting in public health
must be independent, impartial and subject to peer-review. 

Article by Judith Richter about "WHO Reform and Public Interest Safeguards:
An Historical Perspective"