The pharmaceutical industry dished out £340.3 million last year to healthcare professionals and organisations, a new payment disclosure database has revealed.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has now published, for the first time, details of payments or benefits in kind made to doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as other health professionals and organisations in the UK, on a publicly accessible database called Disclosure UK.

This shows payments from 109 pharmaceutical companies in the UK during the year, with £229.3 million (67 percent) streamed into activities related to the research and development of new medicines.

According to the data, of the remaining £111 million (33 percent): £46 million (13.5 percent) went on fees for service and consultancy and related expenses; £14.8 million (4.3 percent) covered registration fees and travel expenses; £3.3 million (1 percent) was spent on joint working; £31.4 million (9.2 percent) was spent on contributing to the cost of events; and £30.3 million (8.9 percent) on donations and grants.

Analysis also shows that the average amount invested per company is around £3.1 million, 84 percent reported total investments of under £5 million, and those that paid more than this spent, on average, 71 percent on research activities.

Publication of payment data is now an annual requirement of the ABPI's Code of Practice for the UK pharma industry, and also falls under a Europe-wide transparency initiative that has seen 33 countries publicise this data this year.

'Milestone moment'
"This is a milestone moment for transparency in our industry and for the vital partnerships we have with health professionals and organisations across the UK," noted ABPI chief executive Mike Thompson.

"These partnerships matter and help our industry bring the right medicine to the right patient at the right time so we can improve quality of life and, in many cases, save lives. Getting advice from doctors, nurses and health professionals across the NHS helps us do this - we can't do it alone. We believe it's right we pay for that expertise and insight, as this is work which health professionals undertake often in addition to their day job in the NHS".

An estimated 70 percent of individual healthcare professionals are currently giving their consent for this information to be disclosed on a named basis, the ABPI noted.

In a recent poll of more than 500 UK healthcare workers, 87 percent said they backed the disclosure of payments from pharma companies to individually named healthcare professionals, with around two thirds (64 percent) saying that this information should be publicly declared.

However, a significant chunk - 26 percent - felt disclosure of payments to individually named HCPs is unnecessary, and 24 percent feared the move would adversely affect medical innovation, while 26 percent also felt their relationships with pharma companies would change as a result.