British pharma’s 2021 Code of Practice now in force

The ABPI’s 2021 pharmaceutical industry Code of Practice aims to increase transparency, encourage collaboration and improve patient care.

Code of Practice text written on a notebook

As of today, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) 2021 Code of Practice comes into force, alongside new ABPI Principles to help companies operate to high ethical standards. Some elements seek to increase transparency, while others will help companies work together with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) within an ethical framework to improve patient care.

The ABPI Code of Practice is the industry’s commitment to operate in a professional, ethical and transparent manner, for the benefit of patients and the public. It is independently administered by the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA).

The new code has been updated to make it easier for companies to apply in their day-to-day activities, to reflect changes in the environment companies operate in and to reflect updates to the European Code. The primary changes include a new layout with six themed sections; the concept of collaborative working with healthcare agencies such as the NHS; a new requirement to disclose payments in aggregate for contracted services paid to members of the public, including patients and journalists from 2022; Medical and Educational Goods and Services (MEGS) are now replaced and can be provided as either donations or collaborative working; and new guidance around medicines with temporary supply organisations, including that they cannot be promoted unless it is part of a campaign that has been approved by health ministers.

The code’s themed sections are:

  1. overarching requirements
  2. promotion to health professionals and other relevant decision makers
  3. interactions with health professionals, other relevant decision makers and healthcare organisations
  4. interactions with health professionals, other relevant decision makers, healthcare organisations, patient organisations and the public including patients and journalists
  5. specific requirements for interactions with the public, including patients and journalists and patient organisations
  6. annual disclosure requirements.

This year ABPI is also putting increased emphasis on the ABPI Principles – benefiting patients, acting with integrity, promoting transparency and treating everyone with respect – which sit alongside the code. All companies are expected to embed them into their organisations.

Most requirements of the new code come into force on 1 July, except for companies transitioning ongoing MEGS to donations or collaborative working, which have an additional grace period until 31 December 2021.

Welcoming the new Code, ABPI Chief Executive Richard Torbett said: “We are proud of our Code which holds companies to standards which go above and beyond the law. The 2021 version of the Code has seen a substantial overhaul and I am confident that it will help companies keep to high standards and forge transparent and collaborative relationships for the benefit of patients.”