OBJECTIVES: To examine the characteristics of pharmaceutical payments to healthcare and patient organisations in the four UK countries. Compare companies spending the most; types of organisations receiving payments and types of payments in the four countries. Measure the extent to which companies target payments at the same recipients in each country and whether it differs depending on the type of recipient.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional comparative and social network analysis.

SETTING: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

PARTICIPANTS: 100 donors (pharmaceutical companies) reporting payments to 4229 recipients (healthcare organisations and patient organisations) in 2015.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: For each country: payment totals and distribution; average number of common recipients between companies; share of payments to organisations fulfilling different roles in the health ecosystem and payments for different activities.

RESULTS: Companies prioritised different types of recipient and different types of activity in each country. There were significant differences in the distribution of payments across the four countries, even for similar types of recipients. Recipients in England and Wales received smaller individual payments than in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Overall, targeting shared recipients occurred most frequently in England, but was also common in certain pockets of each country's health ecosystem. We found evidence of reporting errors in Disclosure UK.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest a strategic approach to payments tailored to countries' policy and decision-making context, indicating there may be specific vulnerabilities to financial conflicts of interest at subnational level. Payment differences between countries may be occurring in other countries, particularly those with decentralised health systems and/or high levels of independence across its decision-making authorities. We call for a single database containing all recipient types, full location details and published with associated descriptive and network statistics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere061591
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

ER’s work was supported by a +3 PhD Studentship award match- funded (50%) by the Economic and Social Research Council and the University of Bath. This work forms part of the PhD project. PO’s work was supported by grants from The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), no. 2016- 00875, and The Swedish Research Council (VR), no. 2020- 01822.

Data availability statement
Data are available in a public, open access repository. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplementary information. The authors of this study agree to share data underpinning this study in the form of an Excel database available from the University of Bath Research Data Archive. The raw data poses no risk to anonymity of individuals as it draws on publicly available reports concerning financial transfers between organisations. The reference for this dataset is: Rickard, E., Ozieranski, P., 2023. Dataset for 'Comparing pharmaceutical company payments in the four UK countries: a cross- sectional and social network analysis'. Bath: University of Bath Research Data Archive. https://doi.org/10.15125/BATH-01239.


  • Humans
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ecosystem
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Drug Industry
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Disclosure
  • England
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Health policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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