14 leading healthcare-related institutions have pledged support for changes to the UK industry's Code of Practice which ban gifts of branded promotional aids to healthcare professionals and require drugmakers to declare details of payments to professionals for services such as speaker fees.

The changes are part of the Trust Imperative introduced by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) in 2008 aimed at developing a new way of working between drugmakers and healthcare professionals. While they 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," says Andrew Powrie-Smith, the ABPI's director of trust and reputation.

The changes to the Code of Practice mean that, from May 1, pharmaceutical manufacturers will no longer be able to provide branded promotional aids such as pad, pens and mugs to healthcare professionals. They will also be required to collect and declare information about total payments  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 and sponsorship for attendance at meetings organised by third parties. 

The Code does not call for individual health professionals to be named, but it does require both the total number of professionals involved and the number of meeting attendances which are sponsored to be declared. The first annual declaration of payments is to be made in 2013, for payments in 2012.

The industry has made these changes to the Code following extensive collaboration with stakeholder organisations representing the NHS, patient groups, health professionals and industry, and have received strong support, says the ABPI. "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," it adds.

Professor Ray Hill, president of the British Pharmacological Society, described the initiative as "a great step forward in the fight for greater transparency and the promotion of safe and effective prescription of medicines," while Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council (GMC), said it is "an important step in the right direction" as a way of ensuring doctors meet the standards set out in Good Medical Practice, the core ethical guidance which the GMC provides to doctors.

Signatories to the joint statement in support of the changes are: ABPI president Simon Jose; Professor Sir Neil Douglas, chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges; Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the British Medical Association; Professor Ray Hill, president of the British Pharmacological Society; NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson; Sue Hodgetts, chief executive of the Institute of Healthcare Management;  Mike Ramsden, chief executive of the National Association for Primary Care; Professor Hugh Mascie-Taylor, medical director at the NHS Confederation; Dr Clare Gerada, chair of council at the Royal College of General Practitioners; Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing; Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians; Dr Neil Dewhurst, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; David Tolley, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; Helen Gordon, chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; and Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet.