The ABPI aims to ensure financial disclosure is welcomed as a positive move, not seen as another bureaucratic imposition on healthcare professionals

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 is the third report from the meeting.

“We have to create a culture where everyone wants to disclose,” said Andrew Powrie-Smith, ABPI Director of Scotland and Reputation, opening a discussion with healthcare professionals at the workshop on the practicalities of implementing financial disclosure. This put the focus on four areas:

  • Creating a culture where disclosure is welcomed as positive
  • Ensuring the objectives are communicated to clinicians and the general public
  • Ensuring the system is reliable
  • Future reviews of how the system is operating and how it is funded

Creating a culture of Disclosure

While 89 percent of respondents to a survey commissioned by ABPI agreed payments should be transparent, that leaves a sizeable chunk of people who do not.

All ABPI companies will have a disclosure clause in their contracts and healthcare professionals will have to say explicitly if they want the clause to be deleted. The industry intends to “work with individuals in terms of their willingness” said Mr Powrie-Smith.
Representatives of healthcare professionals at the meeting highlighted existing requirements in their professional codes of ethics, to be honest in financial dealings, and believe their members will want to comply with transparency requirements.

However, it was agreed it is important that transparency is seen in a positive light and not as another bureaucratic imposition. “We need to get the mood music right, to explain what is happening and that as professional bodies we are fully behind it,” one representative said.

Healthcare professionals must not feel as if they are being singled out. This makes it necessary to highlight increased demands for transparency on the part of other professionals too. However, it was noted that the level of disclosure goes further than that required in other sectors.

It is also important not to oversell financial disclosure as addressing all concerns about transparency, particularly concerns about clinical trials data. EFPIA’s Disclosure Code doesn’t cover all conflicts of interest a healthcare professional could have, and that needs to be taken into consideration.

At a practical level, creating a culture of disclosure will require the fact that the register exists to be publicised.

Data Protection Dimension of Disclosure

Ryan Hollingsworth, Legal Advisor at the ABPI outlined the legal issues that will be factored into the design and implementation of the central register, in particular, highlighting data protection requirements.

The European Union Data Protection Directive of 1995 (which is due to be updated by the end of 2015), is embodied in the UK Data Protection Act of 1998. The Act sets out obligations on anyone who processes personal data, whether modifying, disclosing or erasing information.

In order to process personal information through the ABPI transparency system, it will be necessary to show the system is fair and lawful. This will require informed consent, given on the basis that individuals know exactly what will be done with their data, Mr Hollingsworth said.

Some pharmaceutical companies have already inserted a consent requirement into their services or sponsorship contracts with healthcare professionals. The ABPI is working with its Legal Expert Network of corporate lawyers on a standard consent provision to include in contracts.

Withholding or withdrawing consent

In a consultation amongst healthcare professionals commissioned by the ABPI last year, 70 per cent of respondents said the disclosure of individual payments would not discourage them from working with the industry. However, data protection legislation provides the right to refuse or withdraw consent, in which case payments cannot be disclosed.

Companies working with healthcare professionals who do not give consent, or give consent and subsequently withdraw it, can legally publish anonymised aggregate transfers of value of non-disclosed payments, and say how many people were paid but did not consent to disclose. If consent is given, but subsequently withdrawn, disclosure of information in the meantime is legal.

ABPI members will not be in breach of their disclosure obligations under the ABPI Code of Practice if any healthcare professional with whom they work does not give consent to disclose; this information will be disclosed in aggregate anonymously.

For more from the workshop go here: