'Sunshine' hits Europe: Pharma's doc payments now available, but numbers are far from comprehensive

Photo courtesy of NutritionFacts.org.

The sun is finally shining on drug company payments to doctors in Europe. Under the disclosure requirement by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), U.K. drugmakers officially reported numbers for 2015 on June 30 and payment information across the association's 33-country coverage area has begun to trickle out.

And "trickle" is the operative word--because compliance in most EU countries is voluntary, the tallies are far from complete. And in the U.K., many doctors aren't allowing their numbers to see the light of day.

In the U.K., more than £340 million worth of payments were made to doctors in 2015, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) new searchable database. Dubbed Disclosure U.K., the database is similar to the United States' Open Payments Database, and it allows the public to search by doctor or company for specific non-research payments and benefits, according to the Financial Times.

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France, Denmark and Portugal are the only European countries where compliance is not voluntary and the U.K. association estimates that only about 70% of healthcare professionals identified by pharma and biotech companies have agreed to participate, the FT reported. Those who are reporting only make up about half of all payment value, meaning some of the highest-paid recipients are likely not disclosing, the head of the group told FT.

Meanwhile, the Ireland Pharmaceutical Association defended its pharma members' payment of €27 million, telling RTE that the transfers of value are mostly related to research and development, event expenses, and donations, grants or fees for services and consulting.

Compliance is an issue in Ireland as well, RTE reported, with only 45% of doctors and healthcare professionals agreeing to have their names published in its "transfer of value" database.

The U.S. Open Payments Database also recently updated its payments for 2015 to doctors on June 30, reporting $7.52 billion total spent by pharma, up just slightly from the 2014 total of $7.49 billion.

- see the FT's coverage (sub. req.)
- read the RTE news

Special Report: Top 10 drug brands by payments to doctors

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