A report by the London School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) found that patient organisations consulted by the UK’s National institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to advise on appraisals of medicines and treatments, known as technology appraisals, for use in the NHS did not disclose funds they had received from related pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, found that 72% of the 53 patient organisations studied, which contributed to 41 appraisals on 117 occasions in 2015 and 2016, received funding from the manufacturer of the technology or of competitor products and NICE decision-making committees were only aware of 21% of these financial interests.
Unlike the Scottish Medicines Consortium, NICE does not require patient organisations to disclose funds received from medical companies with a vested interest in the appraisal outcome, however, it does require transparency from individuals.
In 62% of the cases of financial interests not known by NICE, disclosure by patient organisations was not required under NICE policy.
These findings were based upon data from accounts, annual reports and websites of patient organisations, payments declared on websites and centralised databases, such as Disclousre UK, declared interests of nominated representatives of patient organisations and responses from the patient organisations involved. The amounts involved ranged from £20,000 to £199m.
The LSTM researchers called on NICE to amend its disclosure policy to ensure conflicts of interests are known by decision-making committees in its 2019 policy review. They also recommended practical methods through, which NICE could ask manufacturers and patient organisations to declare conflicts of interests, such as in committee meetings and using the Disclosure UK database
NICE deputy chief executive and director of health and social care Gill Leng said: “We aim to maintain a high standard of integrity in the way we conduct our work.
“Ensuring that organisations and individuals declare potential conflicts of interests, in accordance with our policies is central to how we develop guidance and is essential in maintaining public and professional confidence in our work.
“This study is an important contribution in making sure that we achieve this aim.”