- Kate Adlington, clinical editor,
- Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
- The BMJ, London, UK
- Correspondence to: K Adlington
This week the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) launched its long awaited database of payments to doctors.1 This is a useful step towards greater transparency and public accountability, but it serves mainly to show just how far we have yet to go.
Called Disclosure UK, the database reports payments from ABPI member companies to healthcare professionals and organisations in the UK. According to this first release of data, drug companies paid out over £340m (€400m; $450m) in 2015.2 3 The average annual declared payment per named clinician was £1500 and the highest declared value was £98 000.
This is part of a Europe-wide initiative, for which the pharmaceutical industry should be congratulated.4 But as an answer to concerns about the influence of money on clinical and healthcare decisions, its limitations are all too clear. Firstly, because of EU privacy law, declaration is voluntary.5 Health professionals can exclude certain payments or opt out entirely. And there is no option for a nil return so if a doctor isn’t listed this could mean either no payments were received or the doctor declined to be identified.
In view of this, it is encouraging that 70% of recipients agreed …