Drug companies are giving groups of MPs and peers that campaign on health issues hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in “hidden” funding that could hand them “undue influence” the medical journal PLOS One has revealed. It uncovered the long history of funding by examining parliament’s register of APPGs and drug company payment disclosure reports. Both sources contain information about big pharma’s funding of APPGs, and also its financing of health charities
The pharmaceutical industry has built up a “hidden web of policy influence” over dozens of all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) at Westminster by making hundreds of “non-transparent” payments to them, as part of the industry’s wider effort to lobby those in power.
“In the context of health-related APPGs, payments from the pharmaceutical industry represent institutional conflicts of interest as they create circumstances where the primary interest, policymaking in the interests of public health, is at risk of being unduly influenced by the secondary interest, the pharmaceutical industry’s goal of maximising profits”, the authors concluded.
Drug companies can use their close relationship with APPGs to argue for policies that favour their commercial interests and have that reflected in reports, all without the public knowing about those links, according to Emily Rickard and Dr Piotr Ozieranski, from Bath University’s department of social and policy sciences.
16 health-related APPGs received 168 payments from 35 drug firms worth £1.2m in 2012-18 – one-sixth of their total funding
Two APPGs, on health and cancer, accepted more than £600,000 in that time
50 health-focused APPGs received almost another £1m in 304 payments from patient organisations or health charities, which themselves take sums of money from big pharma.