Opportunities for collaboration between the NHS and pharmaceutical companies are being missed due to “misconceptions” about the industry, guidance exclusively disclosed to HSJ has warned.

The guidance developed by the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group acknowledges historical practices of some parts of the industry have left many healthcare professionals wary about collaborating on research, clinical trials or joint working projects to improve patient care.

See full guidance in file attached file below right

The group, which includes representatives from royal colleges, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry and the NHS Confederation, urges healthcare professionals to reject negative myths about pharma and take advantage of opportunities to share expertise.

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges chief executive Alastair Henderson told HSJ transparency was key to successful working between the industry and healthcare professionals.

He added: “It’s transparency that will overcome any misconceptions and anxieties on everybody’s behalf.”

The industry believes joint work can boost research and clinical trials, and also to improve uptake of treatments, ensuring their full potential is realised.

For example, In 2010 GlaxoSmithKline invested £91,000 in a joint working project with a group of GP practices in Wearside.

The money was used to provide project management and an audit tool to help identify patients who would most benefit from intervention. Elective admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease saw a 12 per cent reduction year-on-year while the company benefited through a 6 per cent increase in the proportion of patients receiving combination therapy.  

ABPI director Andrew Powrie-Smith, who is leading on reputation building, told HSJ the industry was keen to move away from a “supplier/procurer relationship” to being viewed as a “partner in healthcare”.

He said: “In some cases [of collaboration] there will be a direct return because the patient pathway becomes more efficient - patients are diagnosed earlier and onto treatment earlier.

“The key is that everyone is upfront about what their objectives are and that patients benefit. As long as you have got those two things in place you can’t go wrong.”

The ABPI has been working to improve the industry’s reputation. Last year a ban was introduced on giving out branded stationary as a “symbolic gesture” of the industry’s desire to change practice. From next year the ABPI’s code of conduct will require companies to declare how much they have paid to healthcare professionals in speaker fees or costs associated with attending conferences or consulting.

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