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MPs concerned about payments of pharmaceutical companies to healthcare professionals

Pharmaceutical companies will begin disclosing payments made to individual health care professionals (HCPs) this summer. While Big Pharma anticipates that this voluntary initiative will be viewed positively by legislators as a welcome example of transparency, there is also concern that increased visibility of payments and hospitality made to HCPs could have a negative impact on the reputations of pharmaceutical companies.

Only 12% of MPs are aware that pharmaceutical companies will begin to disclose payments made to individual health care professionals (HCPs) in the summer according to a recent poll of MPs by Populus. What’s more, many MPs (42%) believe that the value of the industry’s payment disclosure initiative is compromised severely, because HCPs will be able to block publication of transactions between themselves and pharmaceutical companies under the Data Protection Act. Notably there is a clear partisan split on this issue. Over half of Labour MPs (57%) say that preventing publication compromises the value of the disclosure initiative a lot, in contrast only a quarter (24%) of Conservative MPs agree.

Chart 1 - pharma

To bolster the payment disclosure initiative, there is a clear appetite from MPs to prevent HCPs from opting out of publishing the details of transactions. Eight in ten (79%) say that it should be mandatory for all healthcare professionals to publish details of payment and hospitality received from pharmaceutical companies.

The fact that MPs are likely to be more critical of HCPs than the industry in relation to the introduction of the payment disclosure initiative, does not mean that they think the initiative will ensure public confidence in the way that the pharmaceutical industry and HCPs interact. Currently, a majority of MPs (62%) think that voluntary self-regulation of the relationship between HCPs and pharmaceutical companies will never provide sufficient transparency to ensure public confidence.

Chart 2 - pharma

Pharmaceutical companies clearly have work to do to convince legislators that this self-regulation approach will be enough to safeguard public confidence in the relationship between Big Pharma and HCPs. Before the industry’s voluntary initiative lands in the summer, only about a third of MPs, mainly Conservatives, think that this approach is better than introducing further legislation to regulate the interaction of pharmaceutical companies with healthcare professionals. Furthermore, a quarter of MPs (23%), mainly Labour parliamentarians, believe that funding of HCPs in the form of hospitality, sponsorship and consultancy payments from pharmaceutical companies should be banned.

To prevent its payment disclosure initiative from falling flat, pharmaceutical companies need to demonstrate to sceptical MPs and consumers that:

    • the initiative will declare transactions with HCPs effectively

    • hospitality, sponsorship and consultancy for HCPs is essential to driving the development of effective medicines and treatments.


    • Populus surveyed 122 MPs on the Populus MP Panel in March and April 2016 by self-completion online and postal questionnaire.

    • Data were weighted by political party to be representative of the House of Commons.

David Racadio

David is responsible for Populus's industry studies, which help clients in a range of sectors, including banking, insurance, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and retail, to benchmark their corporate reputations and understand the attitudes of key stakeholders that impact on their industry.

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