The Independent on Sunday published an article on 3 July about the provision of hospitality to healthcare professionals by the pharmaceutical industry titled 'Drugs firms lavished millions on freebies for NHS staff'.
The article did not recognise that hospitality can only be provided in association with scientific meetings, promotional meetings, scientific congresses and other such meetings and training. Its appropriateness is strictly regulated by the ABPI Code of Practice and any subsistence support is secondary to the educational content of an event. It should be the programme that attracts delegates to attend – not the associated venue or subsistence. The outcome of industry investment in education, training and meetings is better patient care.
There are strict rules in the Code to ensure that industry relationships with health care professionals are transparent ethical and appropriate. The provision of subsistence to healthcare professionals is permitted, however it is tightly regulated by the Code and it is made clear that it should not be provided for the main purpose of an event, should not constitute a gift of any kind and must not be lavish or disproportionate. Allowing hospitality means companies can, for example, support healthcare professionals to attend educational events on medicines or participate in academic congresses on the latest healthcare developments.
At the beginning of the year, 15 leading healthcare organisations signed a joint statement supporting changes to the ABPI Code on the provision of branded promotional aids and greater transparency. The statement highlights all parties’ commitment to driving this agenda forward, including collecting and declaring information about payments to healthcare professionals for services such as speaker fees, consultancy and sponsorship as well as declaring the number of health professionals a company works with. The first annual declaration of payments will be made in 2013 for payments made in 2012. Whilst there is still work to be done, there is also the drive and determination on both sides to build on this progress with the shared interest of improved patient outcomes.
In addition to the strict rules which are long-established in the ABPI Code of Practice, the industry is fully supportive of the Bribery Act 2010 which was implemented with effect from 1 July and which will provide further barriers to any impropriety in the way in which businesses conduct their affairs.
The ABPI Code of Practice clearly states that companies must not provide hospitality except in association with scientific meetings, promotional meetings, scientific congresses and other such meetings, and training. Meetings must be held in appropriate venues and hospitality must be strictly limited to the main purpose of the event. With any meeting, pharmaceutical companies must apply certain basic principles relating to the educational content of the meeting, the venues, subsistence and hospitality. The Code is also clear that no gift, benefit in kind or pecuniary advantage can be offered or given to health professionals as an inducement to prescribe, supply, administer, recommend, buy or sell any medicine.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410