Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England failed to publicly declare a third of all payments accepted from pharmaceutical companies, the private sector and charities between 2015 and 2017, according to an investigation carried out by The
British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Following a freedom of information (FOI) request, The BMJ received responses from all 207 CCGs in England detailing the payments they had accepted from private companies and charities. The data received was then compared with the details published by CCGs in their online public registries of declarations, including payments from various sources.
The researchers found that only two-thirds of the 4,600 payments, which included tickets to sport matches, that CCGs accepted from private companies and charities in either the calendar years 2015 and 2016, or the tax years 2015–2016 and 2016–2017, were listed in registers or declarations published by the CCGs.
The total monetary value of payments declared publicly by CCGs during this time was £1,283,767, whereas at least £5,027,818 worth of payments were identified in the responses to The BMJ’s FOI request.
It was also discovered that just nine CCGs accounted for half of the total payments received from pharmaceutical companies.
Over 70% of the funding from drug companies was for sponsorship of education and training events. Statutory guidance for CCGs on managing conflicts of interest has since been updated by NHS England to state that involvement of a sponsor in an event should always be clearly identified.
The BMJ worked with Piotr Ozieranski, a lecturer in the department of social and policy sciences, Emily Rickard, a research assistant, both from the University of Bath, and Shai Mulinari, a sociology researcher at Lund University in Sweden.
Commenting on the results, Ozieranski said that he thought it was inappropriate for commissioning bodies to accept funding from the private sector.
“It seems rather peculiar that CCGs are permitted to accept any payments or benefits in kind from private sector companies,” said Ozieranski.
“Handing out relatively small gifts is a well-described technique of building the ‘pharmaceutical gift cycle’ by the industry,” he added.
The full findings of the research will be published in the coming months.