Most healthcare professionals (87%) believe payments made to them from the pharmaceutical industry should be transparent, according to the results of a survey.
Around 69% of respondents who currently have working links with drug companies would give or have given permission for payment information to be disclosed, the poll of 500 healthcare professionals by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) shows.
The survey, published on 12 October 2015, comes eight months before the ABPI is due to launch and host a database of payments made to healthcare professionals or organisations by drug companies, which the public will be able to access.
The results of the poll show that 75% of those questioned thought that disclosure would not deter them from working with pharmaceutical companies in the future. But there was a difference of opinion between the professions — 23% of GPs said disclosure would make them less likely to work with industry compared with 17% of hospital specialists, 10% of pharmacists and 6% of nurses.
“In any other industry, it is expected — and even applauded — when innovators work with users of their products and services to make progress. We believe this is also true for medicines,” says Virginia Acha, ABPI’s executive director for research, medical and innovation. “We are proud of the high-quality working relationships we have with healthcare professionals in the UK. However, it is important to make sure these relationships are transparent. It is great to see this survey confirm that healthcare professionals are broadly behind us in this quest for increased openness.”
The poll comes as momentum is growing to create a more transparent culture around the relationship between drug companies and healthcare professionals.
In August 2015, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that from 2016 all NHS staff in England will have to declare any gift or hospitality from the pharmaceutical industry as part of their employment contract.
At the same time, every NHS trust and clinical commissioning group in England will be expected to keep an up-to-date register of any perks given to staff by drug and medical device companies.
Hunt’s announcement, which is being introduced under a new ‘sunshine rule’, came at the same time as a similar campaign gained ground in Scotland. Proposals for a Scottish ‘sunshine rule’ — originally proposed two years ago in a petition to the Scottish parliament — are still being considered by MSPs.
President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Ash Soni welcomed the moves towards greater transparency.
“It’s vital that transparency is the overriding principle adopted across the NHS with regards to payments,” he says. “We would support any initiatives that promote transparency, openness and accountability in the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and health professionals. This is the right thing to do as a professional.”
According to the ABPI, payments made by its industry members to healthcare professionals in 2013 were in the region of £38.5m.