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ABPI blames doctor payment disclosure dip on GDPR

Figures drop to 49% from almost 65% last year


There has been a big drop in disclosure of payments and benefits in kind to named healthcare practitioners in the UK, down to around 49% in 2017 from almost 65% in the prior year.

The reason for the decline, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), is the European Commission’s recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect on 26 May 2018 and is designed to introduce a common set of standards for handling personal data.

With considerable confusion about the requirements of GDPR, the ABPI thinks that some companies may have either disclosed all their 2017 data in aggregate in order to avoid publishing individuals’ information, or re-sought consent to meet GDPR requirements, which could explain the dip.

“GDPR applies to all industries and organisations across Europe and inevitably brings challenges for all as processes and procedures are checked,” commented the ABPI’s chief executive Mike Thompson.

“I am confident that this drop in consent rate for 2017 data reflects the balance that companies have had to strike between meeting transparency requirements and respecting the rights of individuals as they implement this new legislation.”

The ABPI has been publishing HCP payment data since 2015 under its Disclosure UK initiative in the interests of making sure that the relationships between pharma companies and doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other HCPs are open and transparent.

Until 2017, the trend was for an increase in the proportion of named HCPs in the dataset, but this year’s figure falls below the 55% achieved in 2015, although the industry group says it expects it to tick up again in 2018 “as we strive for 100% disclosure.”

Nevertheless, the latest report shows that more than half of UK doctors who received fees from the pharma industry did so anonymously, giving ammunition to group such as Health Action International (HAI) which argues that opting-out of disclosure should not be permitted.

In a study reported earlier this year, the pressure group identified a number of weaknesses in European disclosure systems in addition to opt-out, including the exclusion of food and drink payments and a lack of a searchable database for public access.

The ABPI provides data in an alphabetised Excel table, while in some other countries data are only available as separate PDFs from companies, making the payment reports “difficult to access and analyse”. In contrast, the US operates a database and the top spenders and recipients can be easily identified.

HAI maintains there is evidence associating industry payments with higher cost and lower quality prescribing and that self-regulatory codes “aren’t fit for purpose.”

Brexit effect

Despite the looming spectre of Brexit, the amount spent on partnerships relating to R&D rose nearly 10% to £371m last year, while the overall spend  rose by around £45m to just under £500m.

Thompson said the spending level “is an encouraging testament to the pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to the UK as a hub of science and innovation that, in the wake of Brexit uncertainty.”

Maintaining partnerships with leading healthcare experts and organisations on the discovery of new medicines “cements our place as a scientific hub which must be retained alongside continued cooperation on the regulation, trade and supply of medicines, after Brexit,” he added.

The non-R&D pot – some £128m for registration fees, sponsorship agreements, travel costs, donations and grants, etc – mostly went to individual HCPs with 82% of recipients identified in the database. Fees accounted for around £40m of the total, followed by donations/grants (£31m) and sponsorships (£24m).

Article by
Phil Taylor

3rd July 2018

From: Regulatory



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