As part of the measures drugmakers are taking to increase transparency, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have published the payments they made last year to doctors and researchers in the USA.

First up, Pfizer's data covering "interactions with nearly 200,000 healthcare professionals" reveals that $177 million was paid out during 2010. Of that total, $108 million "reflects work conducted with nearly 1,000 research organisations and academic medical centres" and supported "critical clinical trial activities including patient recruitment, coordinating and conducting the trials, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements", the drugs giant said.

Some 4,600 speakers employed by the company "to educate their peers about health conditions and the safe and appropriate use of Pfizer medicines" received an average of $7,400 per person in 2010 for their work, while another 1,400 who "provided input and advice to Pfizer to ensure the company addresses the needs of clinicians and patients" pocketed $6,200 each.

As for other costs, Pfizer paid out $18 million for meals, much of which were provided to doctors in their offices by sales reps, and $5.8 million in travel expenses. $1.7 million was spent on "educational items". Pfizer's disclosures were in line with a $2.3 billion settlement made with the US government in 2009 following allegations it improperly marketed the anti-inflammatory Bextra (valdecoxib).

Disclosures soon to be compulsory

As part of recent US healthcare legislation, all drugmakers will be required to collect uniform data on doctor payments in 2012 and publish this data starting the year after. At present, such disclosures are, in the main, voluntary, as in the case of GSK.

The UK drugs major noted that out of $85 million paid out, $28.5 million went to institutions helping with research into cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, macular degeneration, renal and other cancers. The payments were associated with 127 studies involving 595 different lead researchers or principal investigators.

GSK also paid $56.8 million covering speaking or advisory fees to 5,331 healthcare professionals. Since 2010, the company noted that it has lowered the limit on payments in the USA for speaking and advising to a maximum of $100,000 a year for an individual, down from $150,000 in 2009.

Deirdre Connelly, president of North America Pharmaceuticals for GSK, noted that "society expects our business to be conducted openly and transparently and in a way that does not create even a perception of inappropriate influence".