Database shines light on industry payments to clinicians

The UK’s pharma trade body has launched a public database that shines a light on industry’s payments to healthcare professionals – but admitted that many of clinicians who are paid the most in fees have opted to remain anonymous.

As part of a Europe-wide initiative, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said that around 30% of healthcare professionals who have received funding from pharma and biotech companies have decided to remain anonymous – as is their right under European data protection legislation.

But this minority of clinicians received around 52% of the £111 million paid by industry directly to clinicians in 2015.

Payments on the database included consultancy fees, expenses, registration fees, travel and accommodation, joint working, contributions to costs of events, or donations and grants.

ABPI chief executive, Mike Thompson said at a press briefing to mark the launch of the database: “The data suggests that those people who have been paid the most have chosen not to disclose. We are disappointed about that.”

“These people should be proud of the work that they did as they are probably some of our leading clinicians.”

Despite this, Thompson said the ABPI continues to favour a voluntary disclosure system, and not a US “Sunshine Act”-style mandatory system.

Thompson said he hoped that those healthcare professionals who had decided to remain anonymous would have disclosed their names by the time the next set of figures are released next year.

The highest payment to a single named individual was around £98,000, he said. AstraZeneca is the company that paid most to healthcare professionals – a total of £42 million in 2015 for research and non-research payments.

Thompson said: “It is not surprising that a company based in the UK does a lot of research here.”

Companies spent an estimated average of £1,550 per healthcare professional and around £9,506 per healthcare organisation.

Individual recipients of payments can be searched by a number of criteria, including the name of the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, healthcare professional or organisation, and their professional address.

A further £229m was paid by industry related to R&D activities for new medicines – but those involved with this are not named on the database as the ABPI believes public scrutiny for this work already exists through clinical regulatory procedures.

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