E-DRUG: BMJ - Transparency for drug company payments to doctors in UK
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New year brings new transparency for drug company payments to doctors in UK
BMJ 2015; 350 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7748
(Published 02 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:g7748
Rebecca Coombes, magazine editor, The BMJ
Since the new year drug companies in the United Kingdom have begun
recording any payments they make to doctors for certain services, such
as chairing a meeting, in advance of plans to disclose the data to the
public. This move echoes similar initiatives in the United States and
the Netherlands designed to bring transparency to financial
relationships between doctors, teaching hospitals, and drug companies.
The information gathered over the next 12 months, and in subsequent
years, will be uploaded to a publicly searchable database due to launch
in July 2016.1
The stimulus for this new openness comes from Europe and has been
adopted in a new code by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical
Industry (ABPI), which covers 121 (98%) drug companies in the UK. In
wider Europe 33 countries are covered by a new disclosure code agreed by
the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.2
Transparency 'is no longer a 'nice to have' it is a societal
expectation' said Andrew Powrie-Smith, director of ABPI Scotland.3
This shift is significant because there is no overarching system in the
UK for regulating sponsorship, payments for expert advice, and other
benefits that doctors and other healthcare professionals receive from
industry. Even the new ABPI platform - novel as it is - will only provide a
partial disclosure of interactions with industry. The association
doesn't represent medical device companies, or private hospital chains,
for example, so any payment from these industries to doctors will not be
recorded. Nor does the ABPI have the power to compel doctors to make a
full disclosure of their conflicts of interests, including shares in
commercial companies. The General Medical Council does have guidance on
conflicts of interest but it does not currently oblige doctors to
declare these on the medical register.
After the database launches in July 2016 anyone will be able to search
for payment data by health professional name, healthcare organisation,
place of work, city, or drug company name, or they can download the
Once the data pass to the ABPI for publication, it will send individuals
a statement of the payments that will be published under their names.
Clinicians then have four weeks to query this record. They can also opt
out at this stage, even if they originally signed a contract with the
drug company that paid them.
The ABPI will annually publish the number of people who did not give
consent to share payment data and the aggregate amount.
Separate moves are under way to compel doctors to make their own
declarations on a database led by the profession. A working group,
including representatives from the Royal College of Physicians and The
BMJ, is set to meet this month to draft a code of conduct governing
interactions with industry. A final version will be published in the
Attempts have also been made to produce independent registers by which
people can declare any conflicts of interest (financial or otherwise).
One such effort is
Who Pays This Doctor?
which currently has fewer than 150 doctors registered.