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Call for greater transparency about health professionals’ relationships with the pharmaceutical industry

15 February 2018

NHS England has called for more healthcare professionals who have received payments and benefits in kind from the pharmaceutical industry to declare them on an individual basis, through the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)’s Disclosure UK- a central database set up in June 2016.

Healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry regularly collaborate and share knowledge to develop medicines. All pharmaceutical companies abiding by the ABPI Code of Practice must disclose payments made each year to UK healthcare professionals through Disclosure UK. When pharmacists, doctors and nurses give consent, this data is then published on an individual, named basis. Where individual consent is not provided, an aggregate figure is disclosed. The database aims to give patients confidence that the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals is open and transparent.

In 2016, only 65% of healthcare professionals gave their consent for data to be published on an individual basis, which is only a 10% increase from 2015.

The ABPI and NHS England state: “The initiative only achieves its purpose when the data is fully comprehensive. It is for this reason that we share a joint, public ambition to reach 100% coverage as rapidly as possible. 2017 is now the critical year to demonstrate that this voluntary approach works, but this depends on how close we come to the 100% goal.

Disclosure UK provides a valuable opportunity for healthcare professionals to further demonstrate their integrity in the eyes of patients and the public, which is why we have included reference to it in the NHS England guidance on managing conflicts of interest.”

The GPhC supports this initiative, explains Duncan Rudkin, GPhC chief executive: “We very much support this scheme and encourage pharmacy professionals to take part if relevant. Collaboration between the professions and the industry is essential to the development of medicines in the public interest. The public expect to see that their interests are indeed being put first, so this opportunity to make the relationship between professionals and industry more open and transparent should be welcomed.”

What you need to know about Disclosure UK

  • Disclosure UK is searchable by a number of criteria, including the name of the individual healthcare professional and their professional address.
  • It includes information about speaking at and chairing meetings, training, advisory board meetings, fees and expenses, sponsorship of attendance at meetings (including registration fees and the costs of accommodation and travel, both inside and outside the UK) and donations, grants and benefits in kind provided.
  • Disclosure UK is a live database, and the information held may change at any time during the three years it is published. There are a number of reasons why the published data might change, including if a healthcare professional adds or removes their consent to disclose, which they are able to do under current data privacy legislation.
  • If an individual does not give their consent to publish their payments or benefits in kind on the Disclosure UK database, their data will be not be shown on an individual basis, but as part of the total for each disclosing company.
  • Disclosure data is published annually in June, one year in arrears. Data for 2017 collaborations will be public on Disclosure UK in June 2018. Responsibility for submitting data to the website lies with the pharmaceutical companies, and all healthcare professionals need to do is agree when pharmaceutical companies ask for their consent to publication.
  • The ABPI hope that the database will strengthen the basis for collaboration in the future, and that healthcare professionals will recognise the benefits of greater transparency and grant consent to disclose the data when asked. For more information, visit Disclosure UK

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