Principles to guide links between health consumer organisations and the pharmaceutical industry

Health consumer organisations (HCOs) have a major and growing voice in health policy, including through submissions and discussions about government subsidy for new medicines. Health consumer organisations are funded in a variety of ways and many accept pharmaceutical industry funding.

This supports their work, but there is concern over real and perceived conflicts of interest: i.e. HCO acceptance of pharmaceutical industry funding delivers a risk that HCOs will prioritise the interests of the funder over interests of the public, and sector-wide reliance on industry funds might mean than non-industry funded voices are drowned out.

This article, Building trust and transparency: health consumer organisation–pharmaceutical industry relationships, reports on a unique initiative of an independent, nationwide discussion amongst HCOs to discuss the risks and benefits of partnering with the pharmaceutical industry. The meeting was co-convened by Health Consumers NSW, Consumers Health Forum of Australia and the Evidence, Policy and Influence Collaborative at The University of Sydney.

 The aim of the meeting was to work towards a set of principles and suggestions for best practice that HCOs might draw on when considering whether, or how, to interact with pharmaceutical industry funders.

The article lists six principles to guide consumer organisations thinking about engaging with pharmaceutical industry funders and participant suggestions on best practices for operationalising the principles.

The workshop was the start of a conversation and a positive step towards keeping the activities and advocacy of HCOs independent. We welcome comments and suggestions for future work in this area.

This article was first published in the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association journal, the Australian Health Review, and is republished with permission. For more information and to access the Australian Health Review, see:


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About the author

Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells

Leanne was Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia from 2014 until August 2022