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ABPI promotes new approach for individual data on payments  

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The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today released a new guidance to pharmaceutical companies using Disclosure UK which it said will boost transparency in the relationships between healthcare professionals, other relevant decision-makers and the industry.

The guidance encourages companies to use ‘Legitimate Interests’ as their lawful basis for processing individual’s data, in order to increase the number of named healthcare professionals and other individuals on Disclosure UK, the database showing the payments and benefits in kind made by the pharmaceutical industry to doctors, nurses and other health professionals and organizations.

“I’m pleased the ABPI is launching this new guidance which will boost patient safety and public confidence in our healthcare professionals,” Patient Safety and Primary Care Minister Maria Caulfield commented.

“An improvement in the transparency of payments made to clinicians was recommended by Baroness Cumberlege in her independent report, and I want to see as many pharmaceutical companies as possible adopt the guidance.”

All pharmaceutical companies abiding by the ABPI Code of Practice must disclose ‘transfers of value’ to healthcare professionals (HCPs), other relevant decision makers (ORDMs) and healthcare organisations in the UK on the database. Where possible, companies do this by naming the individuals and organisations.

The UK Data Protection Act and GDPR require companies to choose a lawful basis to publish personal data about individuals, and most pharmaceutical companies currently use ‘Consent’ as their lawful basis and subsequently require explicit agreement from each individual before they can publish the value of collaboration against the name on Disclosure UK.

The ABPI said the number of individuals who don’t consent is a challenge in further improving the transparency available through Disclosure UK, noting that as an alternative lawful basis to Consent, ‘Legitimate Interests’ helps a company assert their transparency commitments over the individual’s data rights.

In practice, this means that the company does not ask for permission to publish the information with the value received on Disclosure UK, but still has a responsibility to be clear about their intentions and allow individuals the opportunity to raise objections.

There are already a small number of companies using ‘Legitimate Interests’ as their legal basis for publishing individual data on Disclosure UK and ABPI’s analysis of 2020 Disclosure UK data demonstrates that of the 10 companies who used ‘Legitimate Interests’ for their 2020 disclosures, all had 76-100 per cent of their individuals named.

Half of these companies had over 97 per cent of individuals named and all 10 of these companies had above average percentages of individuals named – the average across all companies in 2020 was estimated at 68 per cent.

“We believe that championing an industry-wide change to the use of ‘Legitimate Interests’ is the single most impactful step we can take to further increase the transparency available through Disclosure UK,” Ben Osborn, president of the ABPI, said.

“My own company, Pfizer, is one of a small but growing group of companies already doing this. Like others, we are committed to transparency about the relationships we have with healthcare professionals and organisations. These relationships are critical to advance patient care.”

The move has received support from the UK healthcare bodies.

“Payments to healthcare professionals in association with the promotion of medicines are strictly regulated under UK law and the ABPI Code,” Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said. “We welcome measures such as this new guidance to increase the transparency of payments.”

Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “Joint working between the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacists can add significant value to patient care. It is important, however, that we are open and transparent about joint work programmes and the NPA support’s this initiative from the ABPI to optimize this.”

Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has also voiced the support of the organization.

“Collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals are central to the research and development of future treatments. We support moves to improve openness around receipt of payments to individuals to maintain confidence in the partnerships between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals,” she said.

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