The cosy relationship between drug companies and doctors has been exposed yet again by new figures that reveal the pharmaceutical industry paid more than lb38m in a year to UK doctors for 'consultancy services' and 'meetings'.
The payments are an inducement to encourage doctors to prescribe a manufacturer's drugs, of course, although the UK's largest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has said it will stop the practice.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has this week released figures for 2012, showing the extent of the industry's payments to doctors. Around lb27.7m was paid to doctors for 'consultancy services' and a further lb10.8m went on 'third-party' meetings, often in exotic locales.
The ABPI's figures may not represent the complete picture, however. Instead, they are based on the activities of 34 of the 40 top drug makers that are active in the UK.
By 2016, EU law kicks in that forces drug companies to reveal the names of individual physicians who have received payments. This pending legislation may have been the reason why GSK is changing the way it remunerates doctors. Going forward, it will pay doctors for 'clinical research' and 'advisory work'.