British Medical Journal: payments by pharmaceutical, transport & hospitality industries to CCGs
CCGs had to release data on payments from private companies and charities under the Freedom of Information Act. With researchers at Bath University and Lund University in Sweden, the BMJ compared the data to the details published in CCGs’ online registries.
NHS clinical commissioning groups, who are in charge of buying health services for their local areas, received payments, including sponsorships and tickets to sporting events and concerts from the building pharmaceutical and hospitality industries.
The BMJ worked with Piotr Ozieranski, a lecturer in the department of social and policy sciences at the University of Bath, Shai Mulinari, a sociology researcher at Lund University in Sweden and Emily Rickard, a research assistant in Bath’s department of social and policy sciences, who intend to publish the full findings of their research in the coming months.. Piotr Ozieranski’s comment: “It seems rather peculiar that CCGs are permitted to accept any payments or benefits in kind from private sector companies”.
Only £1,283,767 of £5,027,818 paid from 2015 to 2017 was declared on public registers
This, despite the revised NHS England guidance which requires CCGs to maintain and publish registers of their conflicts of interest and procurement decisions. This was revised and strengthened after finding, in 2015, that CCGs had paid many millions of taxpayers’ money to companies, hospitals and surgeries in which their members had financial or professional stakes.
National Health Clinical Commissioners responded: “This BMJ investigation seems to imply that there is some wrong doing on the part of CCGs by working with external companies and pharmaceutical organisations, which we would strongly challenge.
Not so: the investigation does not relate to working with these industries, it implies that funding of recreational activities for CCG members, most of which have not been declared as required, is the ‘wrong-doing’.
Paul Glasziou, professor in the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia, says that doctors are often unaware of the effect of drug companies’ activities on their own behaviour:
“Pharmaceutical company dominance of the funding of continuing medical education can result in prescribing that harms.
“Clinicians are often naive about the persuasion tactics used by some companies. So we urgently need better ‘inoculation’ against these tactics, as well as better regulation and funding of balanced continuing education.”
Since clinical commissioning groups were launched in England in 2013, there have been concerns about the conflicts of interest among those who commission health services while also providing them. But the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that drug companies had an important role in supporting healthcare organisations.