More scrutiny, less pay? U.K. docs collected less cash from pharma in 2013

Pharma's payments to doctors are diminishing on both sides of the Atlantic. A new report in Britain finds that drugmakers forked over £38.5 million ($63.9 million) to doctors last year. That's slightly less than the 2012 total of £40 million.

The report from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry is based on aggregate figures provided by 34 of the country's top 40 drugmakers. That makes it tough to compare the numbers with totals in the U.S., where payments from only a dozen or so drugmakers are now public.

But to put the U.K. figure in some context, consider that Forest Laboratories ($FRX) alone paid doctors about $40 million in 2012 to speak on behalf of its products, according to ProPublica's Dollars for Docs data. Among the top U.S. drugmakers, speaking payments in 2012 totaled more than $100 million. Add in meals for doctors, travel, consulting fees, and that number quickly surpasses $150 million. With research payments, the total mounts to $1 billion. And that includes only those few companies required to report right now.

The general trend in both countries appears similar, however. Most of the U.S. drugmakers now reporting their numbers actually cut spending on physician speakers last year. They have fewer new drugs to promote and a large number of the new launches are specialty drugs with a relatively small number of potential prescribers, rather than mass-market primary care meds.

Plus, increased scrutiny of financial ties between pharma and physicians may have had a dampening effect. And there's the anticipation of even more publicity for those payments; with the Sunshine Act now taking effect, all U.S. pharma companies will be opening up their doctor-payment books.

Meanwhile, at least one drugmaker has reconsidered the entire idea of doctor-speakers. GlaxoSmithKline says it's phasing out its speaking program, and will bring on in-house physicians to talk to other doctors about its products.

If scrutiny does have an effect, the doc payments in Europe could go on a downward slide. ABPI's current report doesn't itemize payments to individual doctors, unlike the newly mandatory disclosures in the U.S. But the E.U. will mandate payment disclosures beginning in 2016, Reuters says.

- read the Reuters news