The Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group have launched a new consultation into pharma’s payments to doctors.

The Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group (ESHLSG) is a group of 20 organisations including the ABPI and Royal College of Physicians that are working together to improve the relationship between healthcare professionals and the pharma industry.

The Group has now launched a new consultation on establishing a public register of payments made to healthcare professionals by commercial organisations.

From 31 March this year, pharma companies in the UK will have to publish aggregate payments to healthcare professionals annually, and the total number of healthcare professionals receiving such payments.

This is the first time such rules have existed in the country, but some companies have already been reporting these data for a number of years in the US - their disclosures, however, were mandated by marketing settlements with the US government. 

The Group believes that the public disclosure of payments to health professionals represents a “significant step towards fostering greater transparency,” while also building greater trust between the medical community, industry and patients across the UK and Europe.

Deepak Khanna, co-chair of the ESHLSG and president of the ABPI, said: “The consultation outlines ESHLSG’s vision of the principles behind how a system of declaration could work. It does not make recommendations about which payments to declare or cover, or make specific recommendations about the practical implementation of such a system.

“Our view is that the co-creation of a system to declare payments is the right course of action and that it should be developed and agreed jointly by the relevant stakeholder groups. A move to greater transparency would address societal demands, represent an evolution in the relationship between commercial organisations and healthcare professionals and would support new ways of working in the future.”

The consultation is open for a period of three months and the ESHLSG is actively seeking views from all members of the healthcare community which will inform how the system of declaration would work.

In June 2012 EFPIA, the body which represents the pharma industry across Europe, announced its ambition to work with the healthcare professional community to introduce disclosure of financial relationships beginning in 2016, for which payments made to healthcare professionals (HCPs) in 2015.

The consultation is the first step in building an understanding of views on public disclosure across the medical community and life science industry.

In the US the so-called Sunshine Act, which is seen as more stringent than the new rules in Europe, begins in earnest this year, and also mandates doctors and pharma to publish any financial dealings.