GDPR has contributed to a decline in the number of healthcare professionals disclosing payments or benefits from the pharma industry, says the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

Data from Disclosure UK shows that, for 2017, an estimated 49.1 percent of healthcare professionals who received payments or benefits in kind have data published against their name, marking a drop of 16 percentage points from 2016, when the figure was 64.9 percent.

According to the ABPI, the fall can be attributed to the introduction of GDPR (Europe-wide General Data Protection Regulation) earlier this year, as companies “are likely” to have taken action that could have potentially impacted consent rates, both at company and industry level.

“GDPR applies to all industries and organsiations across Europe and inevitably brings challenges for all as processes and procedures are checked. 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,” said ABPI chief executive Mike Thompson.

“We expect this figure to rise for 2018 data and, alongside NHS England, remain committed to achieving 100 percent. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists have demonstrated their commitment to greater transparency over the past two years and I would urge them to continue to do so as we strive for 100 percent disclosure.”

The data also show total transfers of value made to UK healthcare professionals and organisations last year hit £499.3 million, up from £454.5 million in 2016, and that the lion’s share of this - £370.9 million - was spent on partnerships relating to research and development activities.

“£370 million spent on partnerships with leading healthcare experts and organisations on scientific discovery of life-enhancing 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,” Thompson said.

Brexit deal warning

Separately, the ABPI and the BioIndustry Association warned that a life sciences deal between the UK and the EU for the post-Brexit era has not yet been reached.

“We are now fewer than nine months away from the day the UK leaves the EU and as it stands we still do not have a deal on the future relationship or any certainty on the conditions our companies are expected to operate under come 29 March 2019,” the groups stressed.

“Every month, 45 million packs of medicines move from the UK to the EU and 37 million come back the other way. Every month, the health of millions of EU and UK patients are dependent on our industry’s ability to move medicines and vaccines across borders without delays or interruption.”

The Brexit Healthcare Alliance also recently warned that medicines supply in the UK is in danger of being disrupted if the issue of co-operative regulation is not satisfactorily addressed during Brexit negotiations.

According a its new briefing paper, Brexit and the impact on patient access to medicines and medical technologies, unless a deal access to some treatments could be delayed or even become unavailable to patients.

“Shared regulatory frameworks at EU level have been crucial in providing patients with faster access to treatments,” it stresses, arguing that “in the global market, separate national systems of regulation of health technologies can slow down treatments for patients”.