In an unprecedented joint statement the 15 signatories pledge their support for two key changes to the ABPI Code of Practice published last month – a strong signal of the positive and evolving working relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals.
The changes are part of the ABPI’s trust imperative introduced in 2008 to develop a new way of working with healthcare professionals based on integrity, honesty, knowledge, appropriate behaviours, transparency and trust.
These changes to the Code mean the industry will:
No longer provide branded promotional aids, such as pens, pads and mugs to healthcare professionals (effective from 1 May 2011)
Be required to collect and declare information about the total payment to healthcare professionals and others for services such as speaker fees and participation in advisory boards, as well as declaring the number of consultants employed. Similarly companies will have to declare sponsorship for attendance at meetings organised by third parties. The first annual declaration of payments to be made in 2013 for payments in 2012
The ABPI’s Director of Trust and Reputation Andrew Powrie-Smith said:
“These changes to the Code in themselves are not the sole answer to a new relationship between industry and the medical community, they are strong indicators of an industry willing to work in new ways, to embrace greater transparency and for the science behind our medicines as well as the medicine’s place in the patient pathway to be the focus of our interactions with clinicians.”
The joint statement will be sent to all UK GPs and made available on the ABPI website. Signatories include President of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson.
Sir Richard said: “The changes to the code will help restore patient confidence in medical independence and increase trust in both the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry.”
While no evidence suggests that healthcare professionals are swayed by promotional aids or that industry uses them inappropriately, stakeholders have indicated that they are viewed negatively and are a barrier to trust. The ABPI is prioritising how it interacts with health professionals and the NHS as key to promoting collaboration and building its role as a trusted partner in healthcare.
This work is already providing examples of success such as the INFORCE joint working project where NHS Nottingham and five pharmaceutical companies worked together to cut the number of avoidable hospital admissions and improve outcomes for patients with chronic respiratory diseases.
ABPI members agreed the changes to the Code in November last year. Details of all the code changes can be found on the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority’s website below.
Notes to editors
Further information on the INFORCE project and many others can be found in the Joint Working toolkit developed between the Department of Health and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The toolkit can be found at www.dh.gov.uk/en/DH_082840
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has 150 members including over 50 research-based pharmaceutical companies, both small and large, operating in the UK. Our member companies research, develop, manufacture and supply more than 80 per cent of the medicines prescribed through the National Health Service. Further information is available at www.abpi.org.uk
The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority was established by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) on 1 January 1993 to operate the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry at arm's length from the ABPI itself. The Code and other information, including details about on-going cases and completed cases, is available at www.pmcpa.org.uk
British Pharmacological Society President, Professor Ray Hill:
“The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) is the primary UK academic society concerned with research into drugs and the way they work. Our members work in academia, drug discovery and the health services, meaning that we have a genuine interest in drug safety from bench to bedside.
“I’m therefore delighted to be lending our support to this important initiative, which is a great step forward in the fight for greater transparency, and the promotion of safe and effective prescription of medicines, the cornerstone of a number of goals we jointly share with ABPI and our fellow signatories.”
Mike Ramsden, Chief Executive, National Association of Primary Care:
“NAPC is delighted to put its name to this key and sensible change to the code of practice and looks forward to the continued and important role of support that the Pharmaceutical industry can offer clinicians and their patients.“
Dr Neil Dewhurst, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh:
“The RCPE is acutely aware of the significant role played by the pharmaceutical industry and, in particular, is grateful for its on-going support of postgraduate medical education in the UK. In acknowledging this, we fully recognise and support the need for a clear joint statement on the relationship between the industry and the medical profession, so that doctors, other health professionals and the public can be confident that clinical recommendations and treatment decisions are free from commercial influence and which strengthens the positive working relationships which already exist.”
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council:
We warmly welcome the changes to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice. We particularly welcome:
The prohibition on the provision of branded promotional aids, such as pens, pads and mugs, which will help doctors to comply with our guidance in Good Medical Practice, which advises doctors not to ask for or accept ‘any inducement, gift or hospitality which may affect or be seen to affect the way [they] prescribe for, treat or refer patients’.
The duty to declare aggregate total amounts paid by pharmaceutical companies to healthcare professionals for services including speaker fees, sponsorship for attendance at meetings, advisory boards and consultancy, as well as declaring the number of health professionals a company works with.
While these changes to the Code will not in themselves address all the challenges of ensuring that the relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry meets the expectations of patients, the public and the profession itself, they are an important step in the right direction. As the regulator of the medical profession, we are committed to openness and transparency in the relationship between doctors and industry and commend these changes as a way of ensuring doctors meet the standards set out in Good Medical Practice.
Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said:
“We welcome and support this new Code of Practice, which demonstrates greater openness and transparency in what is a very important area of the health industry.”
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