by Mike Farrer

Disclosure of payments will build confidence and reassure the public their best interests are in mind, says Mike Farrer

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

mike-farrar2-article“It’s such a vital relationship,” said Mike Farrer, chairman, at the opening of a roundtable discussion organised by the UK national body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to consult on the implementation of new financial transparency requirements with medical professionals, held at the British Medical Association’s London headquarters in April.

However, Mr 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 Mr 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 to this relationship.,  Cooperation in developing a number of  new classes of drugs, , for example, the anti-psychotic drugs which  have transformed many people’s lives, are illustrations of this.

However, there is a need to ensure the public understands the nature – and the importance – of the dynamic between private companies and the publicly-funded NHS, by introducing greater transparency about funding routes and relationships. “This is the way to build confidence in those relationships and make the public more confident their best interests are in mind,” Mr Farrer told the delegates.

At the same time, the new commitments to financial transparency, under which payments and transfers of value by the industry will be  to individually-named healthcare professionals will be declared, must not become a disincentive on either side. “We don’t want people to feel relationships are so exposed they don’t want to participate,” Mr Farrer said.

The ABPI must ensure it meets its commitment to create an environment and to put in place a system, where financial disclosure is the accepted norm, and where disclosure supports and enhances professional standards.

While to date it has worked with its internal committees on the development and delivery of a central register for disclosures, now the ABPI must partner with healthcare professionals 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, Mr Farrer says.

There must be 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 payments to individual healthcare professionals. In that way, everyone will embrace transparency, rather than seeing it as a bureaucratic overhead with which they are obliged to comply, Mr Farrer concluded.


Mike Farrer was previously a senior manager within the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom and previous Senior Civil Servant. During his time at the Department of Health, he was responsible for establishing Primary Care Groups, Primary Care Trusts and PMS. In addition he chaired the NHS Confederation GP Contract negotiating team that successfully negotiated the new General Medical Service contract and is the National Programme Director of NHS Live.