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UK drug companies must disclose funding of patients' groups

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7533.69-a (Published 12 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:69
  1. Michael Day
  1. London

    Drug companies must make public their involvement with patients' advocacy groups, under a revised industry code of practice introduced in the United Kingdom this month.

    From 1 January firms are expected to name all patients' organisations that receive their financial support. They must also set out details of such relationships and any funding provided, say the new rules of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The update of the code was prompted partly by the severe criticism the industry received in the parliamentary health select committee's report on the influence of drug companies, published in April last year.

    A spokesman for the association said: “This is designed to ensure that the industry's involvement with patient groups is completely transparent. It's now up to the voluntary sector to do their part.”

    Charles Medawar, who runs the campaign group Social Audit, said, “Links with patient groups are now considered such a major marketing tool and such an integral way of competing with the competition, I doubt the industry will voluntarily alter things too much.”

    However, Harry Cayton, the government's national director for patients and the public, welcomed the revised code of practice—and he also called on patients' organisations to show a similar level of transparency.

    He said, “I welcome this move—and I would urge patients' groups to be equally as upfront. The charitable sector does need to raise its game.”

    Mr Cayton said that during his time as chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society the group received a small amount of its income (“less than 0.1 per cent”) from the drug industry but that it was declared.

    Simon Williams, director of policy at the Patients Association, said: “Some groups simply couldn't survive without money from the pharmaceutical industry, but transparency is vitally important and not only in terms of drug company funding. If a group gets money from another source, say the government, that should be declared too. We make it clear on our publications and annual reports of any funding we receive.”

    Key changes to the code are listed at www.abpi.org.uk/press/press_releases_05/051116b.asp.

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