Joining hands for ethical business practices

Danial Norjidi

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recently affirmed its commitment to push for patient health and cross-border trade with the launch of the ‘Vision 2025 for the Business Ethics for APEC SMEs Initiative’, a new vision for the next five years to reinforce business ethics and integrity in health-related sectors.

According to a press release issued by the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group, the plan comes to fruition under the world’s largest ethics pacts to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors.

“Ethical business practices play a crucial role amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as healthcare systems in the APEC region face major challenges,” said Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade Joseph C Semsar at the US Department of Commerce, which oversees the initiative.

“The vision reflects the urgency and commitment from the region’s stakeholders to further promote ethical environments and ensure a culture that upholds patient trust in which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can sustainably operate and innovate across the region.”

The Vision 2025 for the Business Ethics for APEC SMEs Initiative was announced virtually at the 2020 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum, by a diverse set of stakeholders including government agencies, representatives from patients and patient organisations, healthcare providers and professional organisations, medical device and biopharmaceutical organisations and researchers and academia across APEC economies.

The new vision is detailed in a video entitled ‘APEC Business Ethics – Vision 2025’, according to which, “For more than a decade, the Business Ethics for APEC SMEs Initiative has achieved tremendous progress in strengthening a high standard principle-based culture of ethics and integrity in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors.”

The initiative has connected more than 2,000 diverse healthcare entities and “has steadily emerged as the world’s largest public-private partnership of its kind”.

“Stakeholders once at odds with each other are working together having facilitated the adoption of new and aligned codes of ethics for 50 medical device and biopharmaceutical industry associations, as well as consensus framework agreements for ethical agreements for eight economies connecting nearly 200 parties, by 2020 the initiative has met or exceeded most of the ambitious targets set forth in the 2014 Nanjing Declaration.

“Few thought the achievement was possible, but thanks to the hard work of countless individuals from every APEC economy and beyond, the region finds itself better positioned than ever before to reinforce business ethics and integrity in healthcare amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the Nanjing Declaration sunsets, a new and even bolder road map is rising in the Business Ethics for APEC SMEs Initiative, a bold vision for 2025 sourced by hundreds of stakeholders that not only seeks to progress the needs of today, but to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow – Vision 2025.”

The video highlighted that the new vision wants to measure the positive impact of ethical business practices, and that it “seeks the universal adoption of consensus frameworks and modernised codes of ethics in every APEC economy as well as bold action to advance ethical third party intermediary relationships”.

“Vision 2025 seeks to ensure the APEC principles are modernised to reflect high standards of ethical business conduct today and tomorrow, and Vision 2025 seeks to put the patient at the centre as well as empowering patient organisations, healthcare professionals and governments to promote strategies that encourage ethical business conduct in ways that would not have been possible a decade ago.”

President and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) Scott Whitaker said, “Vision 2025 is about constantly setting and then doing everything we can to meet and exceed the highest ethical standards on behalf of the patients we serve.

“These efforts are particularly important as APEC economies and the medical technology sector, especially our small and medium-sized businesses, respond to the pandemic to save lives and serve patients.”

The press release added that the vision breaks new ground in an effort to measure the positive impact of ethical business practices, taking the conversation beyond the costs of corruption and providing new evidence of the advantages realised by organisations that embrace integrity.

Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and Industry Co-Chair of the APEC Biopharmaceutical Working Group on Ethics Thomas Cueni said, “Biopharmaceutical companies, large and small, know all too well the importance of ethics and business integrity. And the work of APEC in this area has been crucial and demonstrating how ethics creates value across the health economy.”

“As we tackle COVID-19, building trust by conducting business with integrity is vital in ensuring confidence in innovative vaccines and medicines both to treat COVID-19 as well as delivering existing medicines and vaccines.”

It was shared that the APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum also proposed to modernise the preceding ethics principles for the medical devices sector and biopharmaceutical sector and further bolster capacity building initiatives for small business owners, directors and distributors.

Speaking during the forum’s plenary session, APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Rebecca Sta Maria highlighted the importance of keeping trade open during this unprecedented time, while also underlining that closer collaboration between policymakers and private sector in business ethics is important “to keep the integrity in the supply and distribution of medical products of the highest standard so that we can ensure progress towards recovery”.

APEC is a regional economic forum established in 1989 and has 21 members, including Brunei Darussalam.