Pharmaceutical companies are starting to monitor and report the money they spend on promoting their products to healthcare professionals in the UK and Europe.

The Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group, a group of 20 healthcare organisations including the British Medical Association and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, has launched a consultation on creating a register of payments made to healthcare professionals by commercial organisations.

The group’s members believe that public disclosure of these payments will build greater trust between the medical community, industry and patients.

Last June, the pharmaceutical industry laid out a goal to introduce a disclosure system across Europe by 2016.

From 31 March 2013, pharmaceutical companies in the UK will publish aggregate payments to healthcare professionals annually and the total number of healthcare professionals receiving such payments.

Sir Richard Thompson, co-chair of the ESHLSG and president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “This consultation is intended to establish whether there is, in principle, support for a publically available, single, searchable system for disclosure of payments that is inclusive of all commercial life science organisations working in healthcare.”

ABPI president Deepak Khanna said the group believed that co-creation of a system to declare payments was the right course of action.

“A move to greater transparency would address societal demands, represent an evolution in the relationship between commercial organisations and healthcare professionals and would support new ways of working in the future,” he said.

A recent Cegedim survey of European life sciences executives found that more than 80% of respondents were enforcing corporate standards for spending on HCPs and around two-thirds were developing regional standards in anticipation of greater transparency requirements in Europe.

In the United States, France, the Netherlands and Turkey, laws have been passed that require companies to report their spend on HCPs.

France’s Reforme du Medicament law means organisations must record any payment to not only HCPs but also to medical students and any relevant company, such as an IT supplier, consultancy or media company remotely linked to the business interactions of the life sciences.

The survey identified that matching expense data to particular health professionals was a key issue.

“Due to the reality of global transparency, Europe no longer questions the presence of transparency law in a given country, but only the degree of enforcement,” the report said.

“The reality of criminal sanctions is no longer reserved for U.S. operations as nearly all countries in Europe feature provisions designed to effectively expel unethical behaviour.”

Global anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws have garnered large settlements from the Life Sciences industry over recent years.

A violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act meant P?zer paid a $60m settlement for charges that the company bribed various government of?cials in Europe and Russia to endorse and prescribe P?zer drugs.

Healthcare organisations, commercial companies and healthcare professionals are being encouraged to complete the ESHLSG survey online.