Pharmaceutical firms paying members of panel which oversees NHS drug procurement
12:59PM GMT 18 Feb 2016
More than one in three members of the government panel overseeing the NHS s procurement of medicines across Britain has been carrying out paid work for drugs companies, a Telegraph investigation has revealed.
Ten senior officials in the Department of Health s (DH) Pharmaceutical Market Support Group (PMSG) are acting as consultants to pharmaceutical firms alongside their role on the panel.
Individual members have been flown to locations such as Vienna and Munich.
One, an assistant director at Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group in south London, received money to take part in 23 advisory board meetings in the last year.
The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP Photo: Getty Images
Today s disclosures come after Alistair Burt, the health minister, launched an urgent inquiry following The Telegraph s report yesterday on how more than 130 officials involved in assessing which drugs are given to patients are also acting as paid consultants to pharmaceutical companies.
Several officials have gone on to take part in decisions about adopting the drugs they had been paid to advise the manufacturers on.
NHS England said the behaviour described in the reports was unacceptable .
Now it can be revealed how senior officials tasked by the DH with overseeing procurement of medicines by NHS hospitals are among those carrying out work for the firms.
Medicines on pharmacy shelves Photo: Alamy
The remit of the PMSG, which comprises 26 officials, includes ensuring that all patients have access to medicines of acceptable quality at an economically sustainable price . It advises NHS bodies on tenders put out to drugs firms.
Its terms of reference also include engag[ing] with all stakeholders in the pharmaceutical supply chain on behalf of NHS trusts to develop products raising questions about why its members are being paid by outside firms to perform a task that is apparently considered part of their official role.
The drugs on which they have been paid to advise include asthma inhalers and antibiotics.
One firm hosted officials in the five-star Esplanade hotel in Zagreb, which has a spa and a casino
One firm, Astellas, has paid five members of the panel to carry out advisory work. Stirling Anglian has also paid members of the board.
Last night Mr Burt said that while engagement with the pharmaceutical industry helps to ensure medicines of an acceptable quality are available to patients, new rules on declaring interests will make it easier to expose improper relationships and prosecute workers lobbying the NHS for their own financial gain.
The 10 officials carrying out work for drugs companies include Vanessa Burgess, assistant director for medicines management at Lambeth CCG, who attended 23 advisory boards between November 2014 and October 2015.
The PMSG s conflicts of interests register, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that, along with nine of her colleagues on the panel Ms Burgess has declared payments from a variety of firms that supply products to the NHS.
Vanessa Burgess assistant director for medicines management at Lambeth CCG These included Novartis, for which she attended four boards, and Pfizer, which paid her to take part in two.
Another panel member, Kevan Wind, an NHS procurement pharmacist covering London and the East of England, gave a presentation to officials last year about appropriately engaging with the pharmaceutical industry after The Daily Telegraph exposed how two officials were being paid as middle men to arrange advisory boards.
But the PMSG register shows that Mr Wind took part in four advisory boards for drug firms between 2013 and 2015.
Mr Wind admitted some overlap between his private work and companies involved in tenders .
Philip Aubrey Philip Aubrey, another official on the committee, declared taking part in 14 advisory boards in 2015, in addition to other paid work for drug firms.
He said he always discloses relevant interests and where required to, I will withdraw from discussions .
Jane Page, also on the panel, was paid by Astellas to sit on two advisory boards in 2014.
She admitted she would have taken part in discussions about drugs Astellas manufactures but said these would not be supplier specific .
Allan Karr, from University College London hospitals trust but now retired, attended six advisory boards last year, while Maggie Dolan, of the NHS Commercial Solutions unit, took part in two.