The UK's newly-updated code of practice for the pharmaceutical industry allows drugmakers to agree risk-sharing arrangements with GP consortia and primary care organisations, Pulse magazine has reported.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)'s newly-updated Code of Practice, which takes effect on May 1, says that the Code "does not preclude the use of outcome or risk-sharing agreements, in which a full or partial refund of the price paid for a medicine, or some other form of recompense, is due if the outcome of the use of the medicine in a patient fails to meet certain criteria - that is to say its therapeutic effect does not meet expectations."

However, it adds that clear criteria as to when a refund or other recompense would be due must be settled in advance and set out in the agreement, and that any such refund or recompense must always be paid to a health authority or trust "and the like," and never to individual health professionals or practices.

Pulse quotes GP Charles Alessi, chairman of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) in London, as welcoming the significant potential to develop better care which the change creates.

"It used to be impossible to have a conversation with pharmaceutical companies about anything other than drugs. Now it'll be possible to have a conversation about a pathway," said Dr Alessi.

The newly-revised Code also states that patient access schemes (PAS) are acceptable in principle, but they must be carried out in conformity with the Code’s requirements. This is also the case for joint working arrangements between one or more pharmaceutical companies and health authorities and trusts, it says, and emphasises that "joint working must also benefit patients.”

In other changes to the Code, promotional items such as mugs, diaries and stationery are no longer acceptable. Inexpensive pens and notebooks may be provided to health professionals, but only for use at meetings and conference, and they must not bear the name of, or information about, any medicine. Patient support items can be provided to health professionals to pass on to patients.

Companies are now required to publish the monetary value of any support which they have given to patient organisations for activities commencing on or after May 1, or which are ongoing at that date and, from 2013, they must publish the previous year's details about total payments made to health professionals and others for services such as speaker fees and participating in advisory boards, although they will not be required to name individuals.

Also from 2013, drugmakers must make publicly available details of the donations and grants which they made to organizations during the previous year, it adds.