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Pharmaceutical industry invests £377 million in UK R&D collaborations

  • Number of healthcare professionals agreeing to publish details about their work with pharmaceutical companies rises to 57% following GDPR-related dip in 2017.
  • Of nearly £131 million spent on non-R&D collaborations with HCPs or HCOs, 83% disclosed against named person or organisation.

New figures published today by the ABPI show that the pharmaceutical industry continues to invest significantly in UK research and development, working with healthcare professionals and organisations to improve care for NHS patients.

The data published on Disclosure UK shows that the industry spent £377.3 million on collaborations relating to R&D activities in the UK during 2018, an increase from £370.9 million in 2017, signalling the strength of the sector through a period of economic uncertainty.

Disclosure UK is the pharmaceutical industry-led database of payments and benefits in kind made to UK healthcare professionals (HCPs) and organisations (HCOs).

It was introduced to increase transparency about collaborations between individual doctors and organisations – including NHS Trusts and research centres – and pharmaceutical companies. Disclosure UK is part of a wider European initiative and is now in its fourth year. The 2018 figures show:

  • £509.1 million has been disclosed by pharmaceutical companies for 2018, compared with £499.3 million in 2017.
    • £377.3 million of this was spent on R&D collaborations with HCPs and HCOs, compared with £370.9 million in 2017.
    • £130.8 million of this was spent on non-R&D collaborations with HCPs and HCOs (vs £128.4 million in 2017) – and 83.1% of this was disclosed against a named person or organisation.
      ​The money was spent on the following categories*:
      • Registration fees – £3.5 million (vs £3.9 million in 2017)
      • Sponsorship agreements with HCOs/3rd parties – £28.9 million (£23.9 million)
      • Travel and accommodation – £9.8 million (£10.1 million)
      • Donations and grants to HCOs – £26.2 million (£31 million)
      • Fees – £50.5 million (£48.9 million)
      • Related expenses agreed in the fee for services or consultancy contract – £6.8 million (£6 million)
      • Joint Working – £5.2 million (£4.6 million)

In 2018, 57.2% of healthcare professionals agreed for the payments they receive from pharmaceutical companies to be made public on Disclosure UK, a significant improvement on 49% in 2017.

Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the ABPI, said:

“We can’t discover new medicines without the expertise of research bodies, doctors and nurses. It’s vital that companies can collaborate with those people, and that we’re open and transparent about any payments we make to them. The continued investment from companies is excellent news at a time of economic uncertainty and signals the strength of the sector in the UK.

“Everybody working with the pharmaceutical industry should publish the details of their work so that the public can be confident about those relationships and understand the importance of this collaboration towards improved healthcare. We’re moving in the right direction but there’s clearly much more to be done to convince doctors of the importance of being more open about the money they receive.”

Across Europe, pharmaceutical companies are publicly disclosing the payments they make to healthcare professionals and organisations. Britain’s Disclosure UK represents significant efforts by the industry to be transparent in the UK.

Before publishing data about how they’ve paid HCPs or HCOs, UK data protection law requires pharmaceutical companies to request explicit consent from doctors to be able to publish their information online. Without this permission from healthcare professionals, companies cannot publicly disclose the names of the people they have worked with.

The industry’s ambition is for full transparency about how and why they pay healthcare professionals for their work and we will continue to work closely with the NHS and others to drive this forward.