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Although there has been extensive research on pharmaceutical industry payments to healthcare professionals, healthcare organisations with key roles in health systems have received little attention. We seek to contribute to addressing this gap in research by examining drug company payments to General Practices in England in 2015. We combine a publicly available payments database managed by the pharmaceutical industry with datasets covering key practice characteristics. We find that practices were an important target of company payments, receiving £2,726,018, equivalent to 6.5% of the value of payments to all healthcare organisations in England. Payments to practices were highly concentrated and specific companies were also highly dominant. The top 10 donors and the top 10 recipients amassed 87.9% and 13.6% of the value of payments, respectively. Practices with more patients, a greater proportion of elderly patients, and those in more affluent areas received significantly more payments on average. However, the patterns of payments were similar across England’s regions. We also found that company networks–established by making payments to the same practices–were largely dominated by a single company, which was also by far the biggest donor. Greater policy attention is required to the risk of financial dependency and conflicts of interests that might arise from payments to practices and to organisational conflicts of interests more broadly. Our research also demonstrates that the comprehensiveness and quality of payment data disclosed via industry self-regulatory arrangements needs improvement. More interconnectivity between payment data and other datasets is needed to capture company marketing strategies systematically.
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1/01/17 → 31/03/21