Healthcare bodies must help in building understanding of financial disclosure, contributing to the communication strategy, communicating with the general public, and in checking their own data to make sure the system is reliable

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 fourth report from the meeting.

While the narrative of why financial transparency matters is not in itself difficult to craft, there are issues of how and by whom this message should best be communicated, believes Mike Farrer, an independent healthcare consultant who acted as chair of the meeting. “Is this something Royal Colleges should take on, or the British Medical Association, or the British Medical Journal?” he asked.

It was noted that not all healthcare professionals belong to Royal Colleges; for example, there are university researchers who are not members. However, by embracing financial transparency and leading by example, the Royal Colleges and other healthcare professional bodies can show disclosure is positive and something industry and healthcare professionals should have a shared responsibility for cultivating.

While the ABPI will support the effort to communicate with healthcare professionals, a peer-to-peer approach via the Royal Colleges will be crucial. “We can support it, but communication needs to come through the healthcare community as well,” said AndrewPowrie-Smith, ABPI Director of Scotland and Reputation.

Financial transparency is not only of concern to the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals. It is also of relevance to other sectors, for example medical devices and diagnostics, and other groups of health service professionals, such as procurement specialists, commissioners and hospital managers, who are not regulated by professional bodies.

“We need to build a universal culture, we can’t have exceptions,” said Mr Farrer. One approach would be to build the importance of financial transparency into training and induction programmes.

It is critical that disclosure of payments to individual doctors does not generate negative perceptions amongst the public. This underlines the need to increase awareness of the central role that the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals plays in delivering medical breakthroughs and providing ongoing professional education. It is also important that the general public understands terms such as ‘advisory board’ so that the information is meaningful.

In addition, it must be understood that setting up the central register is just one part of the evolution of the industry’s relationship with healthcare professionals.

There needs to be a plan for both public and professional communication, Mr Farrer suggested.

Ensuring the financial disclosure system is reliable

It is imperative that all information in the disclosure system is accurate, because if not, this could be used as an excuse to not participate.

The ABPI is funding development of the system and will host the database. The regulatory requirement of financial disclosure rests on ABPI member companies and other non-member companies who comply with the Code of Practice, and it is in their interests to ensure data are accurate. This will promote and maintain the culture of disclosure, noted Mr Powrie-Smith.

The industry is disclosing its information and making it available to any third parties in order to comply with transparency requirements. However, the ABPI would be open to other organisations hosting the database and managing disclosure in future, Mr Powrie-Smith said.

It was suggested that there should be a declaration by companies that made the payments that all information is correct to the best of its knowledge. This would make it clear that the database is a source of information everyone can trust.

Future Reviews

Currently, the ABPI is the engine driving the initiative to develop the central platform, but healthcare professionals have a critical role to play in making this happen. The representative bodies can help in creating understanding, contributing to the communication strategy, and communicating with the general public. Healthcare professionals also have role to play in making sure the system is reliable by checking their own figures.

It may be in future that ownership of the disclosure system is handed over to an independent body. Once the system is built, the question of who runs it, is not so much related to the cost, but to how its operation supports the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals in developing new drugs.

For more from the workshop go here: