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Feature Briefing

New year brings new transparency for drug company payments to doctors in UK

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 02 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:g7748
  1. Rebecca Coombes, magazine editor, The BMJ
  1. rcoombes{at}

Rebecca Coombes sums up the new UK system for public disclosure of payments from drug companies to doctors

Since the new year drug companies in the United Kingdom have begun recording any payments they make to doctors for certain services, such as chairing a meeting, in advance of plans to disclose the data to the public. This move echoes similar initiatives in the United States and the Netherlands designed to bring transparency to financial relationships between doctors, teaching hospitals, and drug companies. The information gathered over the next 12 months, and in subsequent years, will be uploaded to a publicly searchable database due to launch in July 2016.1

The stimulus for this new openness comes from Europe and has been adopted in a new code by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which covers 121 (98%) drug companies in the UK. In wider Europe 33 countries are covered by a new disclosure code agreed by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.2

Transparency “is no longer a ‘nice to have’: it is a societal expectation,” said Andrew Powrie-Smith, director of ABPI Scotland.3

This shift is significant because there is no overarching system in the UK for regulating sponsorship, payments for expert advice, and other benefits that doctors and other healthcare professionals receive from industry. Even the new ABPI platform—novel as it is—will only provide a partial disclosure of interactions with industry. The association doesn’t represent medical device companies, or private hospital chains, for example, so any payment …

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