by Andrew Powrie-Smith

andy-powrie-smithHaving made a commitment to  disclosure of payments to individual healthcare professionals in 2016, the ABPI is now engaging with healthcare professionals. We need to communicate: awareness is probably pretty low at this stage, says Andrew Powrie-Smith

The ABPI is moving ahead with plans for the development of a central register for payments to individually named healthcare professionals in the context of a “transparency evolution” in which a number of bodies, especially in the public sector, are making moves to overtly demonstrate their accountability in order to maintain and enhance confidence in trusted institutions.

As one case in point, on 2 April 2014, UK Members of Parliament on the Health Committee recommended the General Medical Council, as the body responsible for regulating doctors, “should examine the practical considerations of developing a register [of financial interests], which is reliable and open to public scrutiny ….”

The ABPI has been at the forefront of advancing financial transparency at a UK and European level, said Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director of Scotland and Reputation at the ABPI, speaking at a roundtable meeting organised by the ABPI to discuss the plan for implementing financial disclosure with representatives of healthcare professionals.

For the past two years ABPI has released aggregate figures on the amounts paid by the industry as fees for services, consultancy and sponsorship to attend third party meetings.

Fees for services and consultancy cover 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.

Sponsorship to third party meetings includes supporting a healthcare professional to attend an independently organised medical education meeting, and could include registration fees, international travel, accommodation and reasonable refreshments/subsistence.

Figures for payments made in 2013, released on 3 April 2014, show payments from the pharmaceutical industry to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals totalled approximately £38.5 million. This is marginally lower than 2012, when payments of £40 million were made, noted Mr Powrie-Smith.

Support for disclosure

In line with a decision by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), last year ABPI member companies agreed to amend the ABPI Code of Practice, to require payments to named healthcare professionals to be disclosed. This will come into effect in 2016 for payments made in 2015. The system of disclosure will cover payments to healthcare organisations as well as to individual healthcare professionals.

Mr Powrie-Smith discussed details of a consultation amongst healthcare professionals commissioned by the ABPI, which shows there is broad support for public disclosure via a single, searchable database.

Over 77 percent of respondents agreed that payments should be publicly declared , and there was general agreement that healthcare professionals should play a role in establishing a disclosure system.

The ABPI is scoping the system and is now starting to have conversations with healthcare professionals. “We need to communicate: awareness is probably pretty low at this stage,” said Mr Powrie-Smith.

Andrew Powrie-Smith is Director of ABPI Scotland, he represents the largest sector of the life sciences industry in Scotland on issues from research, development, manufacture and supply through to access to medicines and their use in the NHS.