“This consultation is intended to establish whether there is, in principle, support for a publically available, single, searchable system for disclosure of payments that is inclusive of all commercial life science organisations working in healthcare," says Richard Thompson, co-chair of the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group and president of the Royal College of Physicians, in a statement.
The move comes after other countries, including the US and France, have taken similar steps in the wake of controversies and investigation that raised concerns about the possibility that such relationships - in the form of consulting and speaking fees, grants and dinners - could unduly influence medical research and practice.
In the US, for instance, the Affordable Care Act contains the so-called Sunshine rule that would require such disclosures. Penalties for violations can range from $1,000 to $100,000. However, the final version of the rule has never been released, although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services insists the rule will appear 'as soon as possible' (back story).
In the UK, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry last June acknowledged the need for a similar step and began working with medical organizations to develop a system for disclosing payments across Europe by 2016. After a three-month comment period, the goal is to begin disclosing total payments made to healthcare professionals and the number of individuals receiving payments this coming spring.
“Our view is that the co-creation of a system to declare payments is the right course of action and that it should be developed and agreed jointly by the relevant stakeholder groups. A move to greater transparency would address societal demands, represent an evolution in the relationship between commercial organisations and healthcare professionals and would support new ways of working in the future,” says Deepak Khanna, co-chair of the ESHLSG and ABPI president.
The move comes after growing scrutiny by UK tax authorities of undisclosed payments received by doctors. HM Revenue & Customs said it had so far generated roughly $31.5 million in extra taxes from more than 1,500 professionals after launching its campaign in 2010, according to The Financial Times.
As noted previously, France passed a law that imposes fines of up to $40,000 on scientists who advise the government on pharmaceutical coverage decisions, but fail to disclose any conflicts of interest. That followed a scandal over the Mediator pill sold by Servier as an appetite suppressant for overweight diabetics. A former health minister was linked to the controversy after reports that two of his former advisers – a doctor and a public health expert who was in charge of research at the ministry – had once worked for Servier.
pic thx to jerome kassirer