At the Physician and the Pharmaceutical Industry conference hosted by the RCP in February I was encouraged by how much talk there was about collaboration between industry and the health service. Speaker after speaker, from journal editor to academic, clinician and industry representative, held partnership as central to the survival of research and development, clinical trials and healthcare delivery in the UK.


​But from the breakout sessions it was evident that we're still at the start of a long journey. One academic described time spent in industry as 'career limiting' and a physician who worked for a pharmaceutical company said he had been asked when he stopped being a proper doctor. Clearly this kind of perception doesn't do much to support a positive attitude to collaboration. The external environment is characterised by radical structural change to the NHS, a different economic reality and increasing stakeholder expectations about how industry and the NHS operates. Getting the relationship right between industry and its stakeholders has never been more crucial.

At the ABPI we've been working on what we can do about it.

Over the last couple of years industry has taken some very practical steps to dispel some of the myths that don't do us any favours. We've taken a decision that from 1 May our reps will no longer provide branded promotional aids such as pens, pads and mugs to healthcare professionals. We don't believe that clinicians have been making decisions about prescribing based on freebies, but the changes are a strong symbol of an industry's desire to move away from the perception of a transactional culture between industry and clinician. We hope it lights the way to more profound change. Equally significant, we're going to collect and declare 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.

So it's really helpful that 15 leading healthcare organisations, including Royal Colleges, have signed a statement supporting these changes to our Code of Practice. We believe it means that our willingness to be more transparent and open with our healthcare colleagues has been taken seriously and we're delighted to have such strong support. We are determined to keep the positive trajectory on course.

Change – really significant change – is the predominant feature of the current healthcare landscape and collaboration between companies, academia and the health systems is increasingly central to medicine discovery, development and ultimately, improved patient care. Industry is determined to ensure that not only is it a partner in the development of new medicines and the delivery of care, but that it plays an equal role in developing a new value system.

Andrew Powrie-Smith
ABPI Director of Trust and Reputation, Director of ABPI Scotland


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