UK pharma spends £38 million on payments to doctors and nurses

New figures released reveal that the UK pharmaceutical industry spent £38.5 million on payments to healthcare professionals last year.

This is the first time that a total sum of the money spent by the UK industry on fees and payments to NHS clinicians has been published.

The figures come from industry association the ABPI, which released the aggregate figures as an interim step towards 2016, when the industry has agreed to declare payments to individually named healthcare professionals.

The policy of ‘individual disclosure’ is a key element of the EFPIA Disclosure Code which was adopted across 33 European countries in June last year, and is aimed at dispelling allegations of hidden influence on healthcare professionals.

The European-wide move to greater transparency is a voluntary agreement, and follows in the footsteps of the US, where legislation, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, was introduced in 2009.

The ABPI says transparency of financial relationships between industry and healthcare professionals is a priority for the ABPI and its members.

Last autumn, ABPI member companies agreed to amend the ABPI Code of Practice to include disclosure requirements for payments made to individually named healthcare professionals in certain categories, including fees for consultancy services and sponsorship to attend third party medical education meetings. This will begin in 2016 for payments made in 2015.

Stephen Whitehead, ABPI Chief Executive defended the payments to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, underlining that it is part of the process of developing medicines and ensuring their uptake by clinicians.

The ABPI says collaborative working is essential in order to generate the real-world information necessary to develop and deliver new medicines, and added that “these relationships also help the flow of information between industry and the NHS”.

Stephen Whitehead said: “The industry works hand in hand with healthcare professionals to ensure that our discoveries and innovations bring the best possible outcomes for patients, and working in partnership has helped the industry listen to clinical expertise and develop medicines which can be life-saving for patients.

“Individual disclosure is an important step we are now preparing for. The changes are part of the industry’s commitment to enhance transparency around these relationships, and are a response to recognising, and wanting to address, the high expectations of stakeholders in this area. We hope this will allow us to foster greater trust between the medical community, industry and patients.”

The ABPI says this figure is marginally lower than the same period in 2012, which was around £40m.

The industry association is also developing a searchable, centrally-hosted register for payments from industry to individual healthcare professionals in 2016. The ABPI is collaborating with the medical community on the best way to make this a reality, and recently hosted a stakeholder roundtable with representatives from the royal medical colleges and other healthcare professional bodies to discuss how to develop the register.

The figures

The ABPI says the figure of £38.5 million has been calculated on the basis of information received from, or published by, 34 out of the top 40 companies based on UK sales in 2013. Where the ABPI does not have information from companies it is because of their alternative financial year and reporting periods. The 38.5m figure can be broken down as follows:

• Consultancy services: £27.7m

• Sponsorship to attend third party meetings: £10.8m

Fees for consultancy services: this includes, but is not limited to, activities such as speaking at and chairing meetings, participating in advisory board meetings, involvement in medical/scientific studies, clinical trials or training services and undertaking media activity, including filming and participation in market research activity (under relevant contractual agreement).

Financial sponsorship for attendance at independent (third party organised) medical education meetings: covering registration fees, international travel, accommodation and reasonable refreshments/subsistence etc.

ABPI member companies, and non-members who voluntarily comply with the Code, are required to disclose their company’s own figures on their website three months after the end of their calendar year (or financial year if it is different from the calendar year). Companies will also publish the number of healthcare professionals they have worked with in both of these categories.


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