How Brazil’s Shift Away from Data Transparency Will Negatively Impact Healthcare

In a failed attempt to reduce the brokerage of personal data, Brazil’s Internal Revenue Agency (Receita Federal) cancelled access to the long-praised SISCORI system; leaving companies and trade attorneys scrambling for information. More importantly, it will leave healthcare markets operating blind.

Access to public information is a fundamental right in Brazil and one that has historically been taken seriously. Detailed import data is used by a variety of institutions such as private companies, public entities, associations, the press, researchers, attorneys as well as governments who monitor industry performance and combat contraband products and dumping.

Global Health Intelligence (GHI) uses detailed trade data (in conjunction with other sources) to assess the state of healthcare markets and report on the impact of macro-health drivers. Said information is particularly useful when monitoring and reporting on the state of the COVID pandemic.

For example, GHI is able to ascertain with over 95% certainty that the market for surgical products dropped by 68% in 2020 at the start of the COVID pandemic and later rebounded to surpass pre-pandemic levels in certain categories in 2021.

This type of analysis is done individually for over 400 product categories[1], enabling stakeholders to gain visibility on the situation at hand and determine a proper course of action moving forward. Without this information, stakeholders are operating blind.

In Brazil, Receita Federal published detailed data through the SISCORI system — one of the most efficient and well-run government trade platforms in Latin America. Overall, the SISCORI accomplished two critical and challenging missions:

  1. Providing access to accurate and timely detailed trade data
  2. Offering assurance of confidentiality of private data.

For over 15 years, the SISCORI system was a praised system across the region — until it was shut down.  

Certain immoral companies and individuals found ways to extract additional information from the SISCORI platform, tagging the data with private personal identifiers, such as the name of the importer, the name of the supplier and the tax ID. This practice turned into full-on ventures as companies acquired massive amounts of data, including the personal identifiers, to create business profiles (similar to credit reports and partnering studies).  In an effort to crack down on these illicit activities, Receita Federal shut down the SISCORI system without notice on December 17, 2021.  But SISCORI was not the source of the problem: the companies and persons who abused the system and acted immorally by revealing personal information are.  These are the true culprits and where the sanctions should be directed.

With the SISCORI system down, detailed trade data should no longer be available. But if you search hard enough, you will find companies who still broker this information, including the personal identifiers. SISCORI was a scapegoat in a failed attempt to crack down on illicit activities.

The perverse effect of the SISCORI shutdown is multifaceted:

  • On one hand, there will be limited access to trade data across industries. Specifically, the healthcare system will have less visibility on the economic impact of macro-drivers, including the pandemic we are still living through. There will be fewer facts on which to make decisions; and measuring the outcome of decisions will be that much harder, if not impossible. If it seems like we are going backwards instead of forwards in terms of data transparency, it is because we are.
  • By restricting access to SISCORI, the alternative backdoor channels to obtain information become even more valuable, further enticing immoral persons and businesses to explore other ventures.

Receita Federal plans to reestablish access to SISCORI at some point in the future, with no set date or commitment on how the data will be presented.

Until the situation is resolved, GHI continues to count on years of historical data used for detailed analysis and is also used as the foundation for current monitoring. But until the system is restored, the healthcare sector will operate blind and health outcomes will likely suffer.

GHI maintains an active engagement with key stakeholders to find ways to release detailed import data in the future. If you would like to join our efforts, or to find out more about this situation, please contact us.

[1] Such as stents, pacemakers, cardiovascular devices, neurology products, artificial hips & knees, implants, diagnostic and other hospital equipment and devices.

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