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Payment to docs rules ‘an opportunity for pharma’

The industry’s reputation can be boosted by openness, say pharma compliance leaders

 CompliMed conference 2015

The “eyes of the world will be upon the industry” from next year as payments to doctors in Europe becomes mandatory - and pharma must embrace this change to help improve the poor public perception of this relationship.

This is according to David Morrow, head of medical excellence at AstraZeneca UK, who was speaking at the CompliMed Compliance Conference in London yesterday (pictured second from left).

The conference was being held before new rules in Europe will from July 2016 mandate that all members of the EU pharma trade group EFPIA disclose the name of every doctor and healthcare organisation with which they worked, listing the amounts paid to each in consultancy, travel, training and other fees.

Morrow said: “The eyes of the world will be upon us in 2016, and we must be aware of the negative perception from the media over these types of payments.”

He pointed to a new number of anti-pharma headlines from UK newspapers, which came after the ABPI published aggregate payments from the industry to healthcare professionals (HCPs) in 2013, as examples of what will likely occur next year.

Many national news writers and medical journals have questioned the need for a financial relationship the pharma industry and HCPs and up until very recently, neither doctor groups nor pharma wanted to make these payments transparent.

But during the past five years, pharma firms and their trade groups have pushed for greater transparency to help over issues of reputation - although many doctors' groups, especially those in the UK, have been reluctant to publicly back these plans.

Morrow acknowledged that: “As an industry, we face a problem: we do a lot of good as we bring new medicines to the fore, we create jobs and value to the economy - but all of this can be tainted by a suspicion over our payments to HCPs.

“So as an industry, we need to redefine this relationship, and disclosure is a positive step. We must keep going, however, and communicate the need for a symbiotic relationship with HCPs to counter-act the suspicions of the public and the media that are so evident from recent headlines.”

This also comes as the so-called Sunshine Act in the US came into force last year revealing around $3.5bn worth of money was paid by the industry to around 60% of doctors in the country for a variety of services, including research, medical education and speeches at conferences.

In contrast, around £40m ($61m) was spent by the UK pharma industry on similar payments in 2013, although the number of doctors in the US is far greater than in the UK.

The HCP's view

Omar Ali, formulary development pharmacist at Surrey & Sussex NHS Trust, said that he was broadly in favour of these new rules, but said a number of surveys he has conducted among his colleagues on this issue of open payments had seen it met with some reticence.

Overall, he said: “HCPs are less concerned with what patients think - they are in fact much more concerned with what their peers thinks of any payments, and the amounts involved. It really boils down to a question of perception.”

Ali added that for all HCPs the rule was now: “If in doubt, declare it,” but said there were still many issues to be ironed out with regards to just what needs to be declared.

He said: “For us [HCPs] these rules changes aren't happening next year, they're happening now - all of our payments made in 2015 will be recorded for public consumption next year, so we need to be talking about it and understanding the methodology today.”

Article by
Ben Adams

28th April 2015

From: Regulatory

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