Pfizer UK hints at disclosure of payments to doctors

pharmafile | January 19, 2009 | News story | Medical Communications ethics 

The UK might soon follow US companies by publicly declaring payments made to opinion leaders.

David Gillen, Pfizer UK's medical director, has said industry leaders in the UK and Europe now at least have to consider making public the payments in order to disprove impropriety or undue influence.

Speaking in an exclusive Pharmafocus interview, Gillen admits the UK pharma industry has made errors around transparency over the years, and that it must find a way to restore its image. He hints that this is incompatible with the current model of funding for medical education.

"It seems to me that we put money in [to medical education] and we get criticised for it. So something there has got to change," said Gillen.

The US operations of Pfizer and rivals GSK, Lilly and Merck have announced plans to declare such payments, ahead of new legislation that will oblige companies to do so, and it seems companies in the UK and Europe may follow suit.

Pressure for change has grown considerably in recent years. Suspicions that pharma-doctor relationships are tainted by large payments have damaged pharma's reputation, despite protestations that the relations are ethical.

Gillen is a member of a working party made up of Royal College of Physicians members and representatives from UK pharma.

The group has met regularly over the past 12 months to examine the challenges involved in creating the ideal relationship between doctors and industry.

A report written by Lancet editor and the working party's chairman Richard Horton due in February will reveal their conclusions.

"It's about trying to reconstruct this relationship, which has got to a place where it shouldn't be," said Gillen.

He believes the findings of the project will have an impact on a global level. "If you look at where this reputational change can start, it can start here, and we can maybe change the industry's reputation around the world."

Gillen also believes the industry needs to improve transparency around clinical studies.

GSK transparency moves

Pfizer's rival GSK is among companies that have announced clinical trial data will be published online when a product is approved.

The news marks part of a bigger effort from GSK to improve its transparency, which was called into question in 2004 following accusations it withheld negative data on the antidepressant Seroxat/Paxil.

In a further move the company has also announced it will no longer make corporate political donations, to avoid accusations of lobbying. Like other pharma firms, GSK has made political contributions in the past, and in 2007 these amounted to £249,000.

In the US, the company will continue to facilitate political contributions by eligible GSK employees through its independent Political Action Committee.

Related Stories:

GSK halts political funding

Monday, January 05, 2009

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