Collaboration with drug industry won’t affect clinical decisions, says new guide

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 02 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2489
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

Doctors are being urged not to be “tempted to accept the negative myths about cooperating with industry” in a new guide to promote collaboration between healthcare organisations and the drug industry to improve care of patients in the United Kingdom.

The guidance is supported by organisations representing the industry and by healthcare bodies including the BMA, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and the royal colleges of GPs, physicians, and psychiatrists. The Department of Health for England, the NHS Confederation, and the governments of Scotland and Wales also back the guide, which is aimed at achieving better cooperation with the industry for the benefit of patients at a time of budgetary constraint.

The guidelines come from the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group, which has representatives of doctors’ professional and regulatory bodies, life sciences industry organisations, and patients’ groups. The group aims to “create a platform for increased collaboration and partnership for the benefit of patients.”

Previously, drug companies have offered doctors lavish hospitality at conferences in resort settings and major sponsorship and speakers’ fees. But such practices have been curbed by the industry’s own code of practice ( and the recent Bribery Act.

“Undertaken appropriately, working with industry will not harm objectivity of clinical decision-making and should not be perceived negatively by peers,” says the guide.

It points out that the industry was responsible for 92% of drug research and development in 2009 and that it takes 10-15 years and typically costs £550m (€660m; $880m) to develop a new drug. But doctors are advised not to “establish blanket policies denying interaction with industry or regard it merely as a source of funding.”

Doctors are urged to declare all conflicts of interest and to be transparent about all involvements with the industry and not to ask or expect drug companies to provide or undertake things forbidden by the industry’s code. They are advised to challenge any behaviours that seem unacceptable and to report suspected breaches of the code.

Richard Thompson, co-chairman of the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group and president of the Royal College of Physicians, said, “There are many real benefits to be gained by working together in an open and transparent manner, and this new set of guidelines is an excellent start. I urge all health professionals to embrace them.”

Richard Tiner, president of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, the standard setting body for doctors working in the industry, said that the faculty was particularly pleased that the guidance highlighted the issue of reporting of adverse events.

It urges doctors to use companies’ post-marketing surveillance teams and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s yellow card system to make sure that all adverse events are tracked and action taken.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2489


  • Guidance on Collaboration between Healthcare Professionals and the Pharmaceutical Industry is at