Transparency move can make us #proudofpharma

Team Aurora specialise in getting patients access to innovative medicines, and so we know the value of working with experts to help bring the right treatment, to the right patient, at the right time. Getting the right advice from healthcare experts is vital if pharmaceutical companies are to develop life-changing new medicines.

Amid calls for greater transparency on the nature of payments made by the pharmaceutical industry to healthcare professionals and organisations (HCPs & HCOs) at the European level, Aurora welcomes the UK solution on the table which is launched tomorrow…

Disclosure UK is a transparency initiative from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to publish any payments made to healthcare experts for their advice and time beyond work for their employer, including the NHS. Pharmaceutical companies have already been publishing total amounts paid on their own websites, and as of tomorrow, the ABPI website will host a searchable database of payments and benefits in kind made to individual HCPs/HCOs in the context of the wider amount spent on the research and development (R&D) of new drugs.

The introduction of Disclosure UK will provide a common resource for recording any payments, or transfers of value made to HCPs/HCOs by the industry unless there is a legal reason not to do so, such as an HCP not providing contractual consent under Data Protection law. We will see what the actual rate of contribution among HCPs/HCOs is tomorrow, but regardless of the level, the new database marks a shift away from companies reporting aggregate data towards data from individual HCPs/HCOs, as well as the increased transparency (and responsibility) this brings.

Although this will mean the public can have full confidence in the transparency of the database, achieving this will require a substantial degree of objective communications to overcome sensationalism. Bearing in mind the words of Jonathan Swift, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it”, time will tell if the media coverage in the short and medium term will achieve this.

Spelling out the reasons why doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other HCPs are in receipt of payments from pharmaceutical companies may go some way towards correcting public misconceptions. Disclosure UK follows the US Physician Payments Sunshine Act and will similarly cast light on declared interests and transactions related to services in the development or sale of medicines, whether for promotional purposes or otherwise. Importantly, these often include educational grants and sponsorship for doctors or nurses to attend conferences (including registration fees, travel, and accommodation expenses) as well as payments for chairing meetings, or speaking at events and advisory boards. These should be viewed in the context of total spend on R&D for which Disclosure UK will publish data while individual R&D-related payments are instead published by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in their Clinical Study Reports.

While it is right that the contents of Disclosure UK come under journalistic scrutiny, it is, of course, fair to pay doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other HCPs for their time and expertise, as their work with pharmaceutical companies is in addition to their work for the NHS. Moreover, as the NHS continues to face resource challenges, there is a strong argument for the industry continuing to offer unrestricted educational grants to support the continued medical education (CME) and training of HCPs.


Disclose UK is an important milestone towards greater transparency

Patients will understandably want to know how they benefit from HCPs working for pharmaceutical companies. Healthcare experts are borne out of a competitive yet collaborative approach with each other during their CME, but also with the pharmaceutical industry. Such collaborations facilitate R&D and knowledge-sharing which is crucial for advancing candidate drugs into innovative medicines which patients can access, and for developing support programmes for patients to take control of their condition. An HIV diagnosis in the Western world, for instance, was seen as a death sentence in the 1980s, where now it can be managed through the use of innovative medicines. This happened due to an extensive collaborative effort of patient advocacy groups, HCPs and the pharmaceutical industry.

Disclosure UK is an important milestone towards greater transparency of the nature of pharmaceutical research and, if objectively reported, will help reaffirm the public’s trust in healthcare experts to give their patients access to the right treatment, at the right time.

This is a good move and makes me #proudofpharma.

Learn more about the ABPI’s Disclosure UK initiative.


| Neil Crump

On the access of HIV medication question… granted there is still some way to go in terms of patient access in the developing world – but that is a whole other blog post!

| Vance Naughton

The Disclosure UK database shows that the pharmaceutical industry invested £340.3m on working with HCPs/HCOs in 2015, 85% of which was for R&D activity, educational grants, and events.

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