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In brief

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) has launched a set of Data Ethics Principles to guide the pharmaceutical industry on best practices for using data responsibly and sustainably.

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While the IFPMA is not strictly applicable to pharmaceutical companies as a matter of law, the principles may prove useful for pharmaceutical companies as a reference point for navigating the increasingly popular use of artificial intelligence and big data in the healthcare industry. Members of the Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (SAPI) may also do well to follow the Data Ethics Principles insofar as SAPI is itself a member of the IFPMA.

In more detail 

The IFPMA represents pharmaceutical industry associations and companies from both developed and developing countries. Its newly launched Data Ethics Principles cover all types of data used and processed by pharmaceutical companies, including patient data, healthcare professional data and employee/business partner data. It stresses the importance of taking into account the impact of data use on individuals and how it lines up with human values, risks and benefits.
Forming the foundation of ethical decision-making are seven proposed principles:

  1. Autonomy – Respecting individual’s privacy, ensuring their rights are protected and honouring confidentiality obligations.
  2. Transparency – Ensuring that individuals can understand how their personal data are being used.
  3. Data quality – Companies should use the best quality data available for any decision-making.
  4. Fairness and non-discrimination – When acquiring data, companies should seek to be inclusive and equitable and strive to respond to the needs of all patients.
  5. Ethics by design – Safeguards should be built into the design of data architecture and data processing to protect against harm and risks to individuals.
  6. Responsible data sharing – When sharing data, companies should consider, prioritise and protect individual rights.
  7. Responsibility and accountability – There should be effective governance, clear standards, training, monitoring of activities and disciplinary sanctions.

According to the IFPMA, these principles are but the starting point for member companies to evaluate their internal processes and policies on ethical data handling. It emphasises that exercising data ethics is an ongoing effort and that companies should routinely reevaluate their data ethics programs in light of developments in technologies and applications. 

Full details of the Data Ethics Principles may be accessed here.


Andy Leck is the managing principal of Baker McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Mr. Leck is recognised by the world’s leading industry and legal publications as a leader in his field. Asian Legal Business notes that he “always gives good, quick advice, [is] client-focused and has strong technical knowledge for his areas of practice”. Alongside his current role as managing principal, Mr. Leck has held several leadership positions in the Firm and externally as a leading IP practitioner. He currently serves on the International Trademark Association's Board of Directors and is a member of the Singapore Copyright Tribunal.


Ren Jun is an associate principal of Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Ren Jun extensively represents local and international intellectual property-intensive clients in both contentious and non-contentious IP matters, such as anti-counterfeiting; civil and criminal litigation; commercial issues; regulatory clearance; and advertising laws. Ren Jun also advises on a wide range of issues relating to the healthcare industries. These include regulatory compliance in respect of drugs, medical devices, clinical trials, health supplements and cosmetics; product liability and recall; and anti-corruption. Ren Jun is currently a member of the Firm's Asia Pacific Healthcare ASEAN Economic Community; Product Liability and Regulatory Sub-Committees.

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