The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry recently brought together healthcare professionals to discuss its plan for a central register on disclosures

At the beginning of April the ABPI organised a stakeholder roundtable to discuss how to coordinate efforts to develop a robust transparency registry that will meet the expectations and needs of healthcare professionals, industry, the general public and, most importantly, patients.

This followed an agreement by member companies, reached in autumn 2013, (as part of amendments to the ABPI Code of Practice) to disclose payments to individually-named healthcare professionals in certain categories, including consultancy services and sponsorship to attend medical education meetings.  The ABPI Board had previously agreed in 2010 to disclose aggregate payments from 2012.

Individual healthcare professional disclosures will come into effect in 2016, a move that is enshrined in the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) Disclosure Code, which has been adopted across 33 European countries.

Now, the most important question is how to make information available. The default position is for disclosures to be published on company websites. However, the ABPI has taken the lead in developing a central registry for disclosures and recognises it needs to work in partnership with healthcare professionals on the implementation of the system.

Vital Relationship

The exchange of information and expertise between the pharmaceutical industry and health care professionals is an essential component of bringing of bringing new medicines into the clinic and improving treatments for patients.

“It’s such a vital relationship,” said Mike Farrer, opening the roundtable discussion organised by the ABPI to consult on the implementation of new financial transparency rules with medical professionals at the British Medical Association’s London headquarters.

However, Farrer said, there have always been underlying tensions and some “macro-level” consternation about the relationship, in particular because healthcare in the UK is largely publicly-funded, whereas the pharmaceutical industry is profit-driven.

For Farrer, an independent consultant, who formerly was a senior National Health Service (NHS) executive, the issue is one of perception. Both industry and healthcare participants bring a common set of values and objectives, with a number of examples of new classes of drugs, amongst others, anti-psychotics that have transformed people’s lives, as exemplars of this.

The ABPI has made a commitment to create an environment, and put in place a system, where financial disclosure is the accepted norm, and where disclosure supports and enhances professional standards.

In advance of the April Roundtable, the ABPI had been working with internal committees on the development and delivery of the register. The consultation with healthcare professional bodies is designed to ensure EFPIA Disclosure Code requirements are introduced in the UK in a way that is meaningful, from the point of view of patients, the medical profession and the UK economy.

The ABPI aims to build a consensus in which healthcare professionals and other stakeholders genuinely feel happy about the move from publishing aggregate payments, as is the case now, to publishing details of payments to individual healthcare professionals. The intention is that everyone embraces transparency and commits, rather than seeing it as a bureaucratic overhead with which they are obliged to comply, Farrer said.

Transforming relationships

For the ABPI, this is a major initiative, which we hope will help transform relationships between healthcare professionals and the biopharmaceutical industry, said Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive Officer of the ABPI, welcoming representatives of the UK medical profession to the meeting.

The ABPI is proud of the relationship, and the contribution it makes both to improving treatments in indications such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, and in driving economic growth, with the UK having a proud heritage as the source of 25 per cent of approved drugs. “The industry has not done this in isolation, but in collaboration with researchers, clinicians and those in the front line in delivering care,” Mr Whitehead said.

Unless the move to increase financial transparency is welcomed by ardent critics of the industry, it will be pointless. “It must show which doctor received what, from whom, for what,” said Mr Whitehead.

For more from the workshop go here: