Recently the Daily Telegraph investigated the extent to which senior healthcare professionals are receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies. The level of payments and the web of interactions was extensive.
The investigation also revealed that some senior health officials, including those who decide which drugs are used by hospitals, are being paid to work as consultants for pharmaceutical companies. These companies have the aim of persuading budget holders to “switch” to the medicines the pharma companies manufacture.
Although such links occur in many countries, and there is a clear need for a doctor to be prescribing a drug based on its medical utility rather than any other factor, in the U.K., with its taxpayer funded healthcare system, the fair allocation of money takes on an additional level of concern.
In July 2015, Digital Journal reported about the figures in relation to the amount of money spent by the pharmaceutical industry on the medical profession in the U.K. This is around £41 million ($60 million). Such money is spent on entertaining, conferences and promotions. Although high, this amount is dwarfed by the $1.5 billion spent each year for the same types of activity in the U.S.
The Daily Telegraph revelations may lead to a change in the law so that doctors have to declare any money, incentives or entertainment provided by a drug manufacturer. Health ministers are currently considering how such legislation might work.
In related medicines news, the Economist has highlighted the worrying fact that many clinical trials for medicines are not thoroughly evidence-based and this type of practice can lead to a risk of side-effects occurring in relation to certain medications. It also stands that the full results from clinical trials are not issued, meaning that medical practitioners rarely have access to all of the necessary data with which they can make an informed and independent decision about the worth of a new drug. This has led to calls for greater transparency with medical prescribing.