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Pharma to disclose doctor payments

Published on 04/07/13 at 10:22am
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The members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations will have to demonstrate more transparency

Pharma companies in Europe will have to reveal how much they pay to doctors under a voluntary agreement set out by pharma’s European trade body.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA)’s long-awaited code should mean that its members will have to be more up front on this issue than in the past.

From 2016, each member company will be required to make available on their website the names of healthcare professionals and associations receiving payments.

Firms will also have to detail the amounts they have paid and for what - for example, consultancy fees, travel expenses or congress fees.

EFPIA director general Richard Bergström said: “This is an important step for our industry, as we demonstrate our commitment to transparency and secure the trust of the patients our industry serves.”

Pharma believes that its support for health professionals is a vital means of allowing the dissemination of good practice and expertise - particularly as public health faces huge pressure on its finances.

Yet although the principle of doctors receiving reimbursement for their services is not seriously in question, there are worries over the potential abuse of such transactions.

A couple of high-profile recent PMCPA cases have seen Roche and ten other pharma firms censured for providing hospitality for doctors which was deemed to be too lavish.

There have also been several incidents of major fraud in the past decade which have thrown the spotlight on the way pharma companies interact with health professionals.

So while pharma will be keen to present the EFPIA code as proof of the industry’s continuing interest in transparency, critics are unlikely to be so easily impressed.

In April figures from the ABPI showed that pharma paid health professionals £40 million last year - although this total figure was not broken down into monies received by individuals.

Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma, ridiculed the ABPI move, saying that it is still not possible to see how much individuals are paid since companies are only publishing aggregate amounts.

Figures from the Financial Times showed that in the US last year 12 companies paid more than $1 billion to doctors: US legislation due to come in this year will compel pharma to make full disclosure of such payments.

The Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group is currently working on proposals to pick out more specific transactions - and the ABPI itself says “certain payments made to healthcare professionals at an individual level across Europe” will be declared by 2016.

Adam Hill

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