Evaluating the transparency of pharmaceutical company disclosure of payments to patient organisations in the UK

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Patient organisations contribute to many areas of pharmaceutical policy. In developing their organisational capacity, many turn to financial support from pharmaceutical companies, which may create conflicts of interests. However, the transparency of the industry's self-regulatory approach to the disclosure of payments to patient organisations has evaded scrutiny. Using company reports disclosing payments to UK patient organisations in 2012–2016, we evaluate the transparency of reporting using indicators derived from industry's European patient organisation Code. We found a large proportion of companies did not have any disclosure reports available despite many having made payments, confirmed by comparing with annual financial accounts of patient organisations registered as charities. Where disclosure reports were available, many payments were not adequately described, resulting in large portions of money being disclosed without clarity as to the payment type and purpose. We found companies were clearer regarding whether payments were financial or benefits-in-kind, but transparency was particularly inadequate as to whether it could be determined if payments were indirect or direct and restricted or unrestricted, and almost no companies mentioned the VAT status of payments. Our findings suggest that the industry's self-regulatory approach to transparency has not been working efficiently. We suggest ways for standardising and increasing the precision of information by pharmaceutical companies and advocate for the introduction of a centralised, and easily accessible national-level payment database.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1244-1250
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number12
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Disclosure
  • Patient organisations
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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