A hidden web of policy influence: The pharmaceutical industry’s engagement with UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups

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Our objective was to examine conflicts of interest between the UK’s health-focused All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and the pharmaceutical industry between 2012 and 2018. APPGs are informal cross-party groups revolving around a particular topic run by and for Members of the UK’s Houses of Commons and Lords. They facilitate engagement between parliamentarians and external organisations, disseminate knowledge, and generate debate through meetings, publications, and events. We identified APPGs focusing on physical or mental health, wellbeing, health care, or treatment and extracted details of their payments from external donors disclosed on the Register for All-Party Parliamentary Groups. We identified all donors which were pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical industry-funded patient organisations. We established that sixteen of 146 (11%) health-related APPGs had conflicts of interest indicated by reporting payments from thirty-five pharmaceutical companies worth £1,211,345.81 (16.6% of the £7,283,414.90 received by all health-related APPGs). Two APPGs (Health and Cancer) received more than half of the total value provided by drug companies. Fifty APPGs also had received payments from patient organisations with conflicts of interest, indicated by reporting 304 payments worth £986,054.94 from 57 (of 84) patient organisations which had received £27,883,556.3 from pharmaceutical companies across the same period. In total, drug companies and drug industry-funded patient organisations provided a combined total of £2,197,400.75 (30.2% of all funding received by health-related APPGs) and 468 (of 1,177–39.7%) payments to 58 (of 146–39.7%) health-related APPGs, with the APPG for Cancer receiving the most funding. In conclusion, we found evidence of conflicts of interests through APPGs receiving substantial income from pharmaceutical companies. Policy influence exerted by the pharmaceutical industry needs to be examined holistically, with an emphasis on relationships between actors potentially playing part in its lobbying campaigns. We also suggest ways of improving transparency of payment reporting by APPGs and pharmaceutical companies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252551
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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