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Last year there were many positive moves to increase transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. The Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), for example, disclosed the total aggregate of payments made to healthcare professionals in 2013, a total of £38.5 million.

But as we say goodbye to 2014 and we welcome in the New Year – we also welcome a further level of transparency. In order to fall into line with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA)’s Disclosure Code, the ABPI Code of Practice stipulates that data on payments in 2015 will now be recorded on an individual basis for publication by July 2016.

2015 will therefore be a year of important data gathering as each payment made to individual healthcare professionals (HCPs) will be recorded for events such as speaking at and chairing meetings, training services, participation at advisory board meetings, participation in market research (where such participation involves remuneration and/or travel), sponsorship in relation to attendance at meetings i.e. registration fees and the costs of accommodation and travel.

For healthcare organisations (HCOs) transfers of value classified as benefits in kind, fees for services, contributions towards events and joint working, will have to be disclosed, in addition to the current requirements to disclose grants and donations. The aggregate spend on certain research and development (R&D) and payments made to patient organisations will also need to be disclosed. Pharmaceutical companies will therefore need to have robust systems in place for recording and checking their data such as BMI SYSTEM’s Naya software solution.

For the first two years, the ABPI has agreed to host the website containing all the payment data, which will be managed by a specialist data management company and checked for accuracy and completeness. HCPs/HCOs will be notified in an automated email when payment data is submitted by companies and if the HCP disputes this, they can reply to the email in order to resolve the dispute. It is envisaged that in the future, and for the long term, an independent agency will be responsible for hosting and maintaining the platform.

The practicalities therefore seem to be taken care of. However, what many stakeholders are now asking is what will be the effect of the disclosure of individual payment data on the relationship between the public and their doctors or between HCPs and the pharmaceutical industry? It is hoped that there will be an increase in trust for patients and that transparency will not affect the beneficial interactions that HCPs have with the industry.

According to the ABPI, “Transparency, particularly regarding financial relationships with the HCPs that the public know and trust, is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is societal expectation…” The ABPI have detailed that the central platform, which will be mandatory for all ABPI members and those who comply with the Code of Practice, will also contain contextual information i.e. how the data can be used and interpreted alongside individual company methodology notes, a search engine for the data to be easily accessed and a facility to download a copy of the full dataset, making public access as easy as possible.

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The author

Ruth KnowlesRuth Knowles is a freelance science writer who has written articles and press releases on a range of life science and health topics. She received her MSc in Science Communication from the University of the West of England, Bristol.

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