Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff

Jonathan Mendel made this Freedom of Information request to Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Waiting for an internal review by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust of their handling of this request.

Dear Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust,

Hospital trusts are reportedly meant to keep a register of payments from pharmaceutical companies (and other relevant companies) to staff, in case of conflicts of interest [1]. I am requesting a copy of the register for this Trust - which I would hope includes details of all relevant payments to staff and any related potential conflicts of interest. If it would be possible to have this information in an appropriate structured data format - for example, a CSV file - this would be helpful. If this Trust does not have a complete register, I would request: the release of the information on this topic that the Trust does hold; and an explanation of why the Trust does not hold a complete register.

I am aware that some would view data on pharmaceutical funding as personal data for those staff receiving the funding. Even if some of the information on this register may be classed as personal data (although this is contestable - for example, in some sectors of academia information re funding sources is made public as a matter of course) it would be covered by paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act. The release of these data is "necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed" [2]. Spurling et al's systematic review of how information from pharmaceutical companies impacts physicians' prescribing reported that, of the studies included which looked at total promotional investment, three "found that total promotional investment was positively associated with prescribing frequency...Two...found both positive results and no association...One study did not detect an association" [3]. There is thus a legitimate interest in releasing this register: the available research suggests that it is plausible that payments received influence how public money is spent and the type of care provided to members of the public.

For the reasons given above, there is a strong public interest in releasing this information. While "requests for the personal data of a third party are exempt under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act...if disclosure would contravene section 10 of the Data Protection Act, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress" [2], I would argue that, even if some of those named in these documents feel that their release would cause them damage or distress, this is outweighed by the significant public interest served by releasing these data.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Jonathan Mendel

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/a...
[2] http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/info...
[3] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info...

FOIA (RTH) OUH,

Dear Dr Mendel

Re: FOI/1780

Thank you for your email which I received today requesting information about payments to staff from pharmaceutical companies. Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within 20 working days of receipt of the request.

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact me. Please quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Regards

Sarah Watkins
Planning and Information
John Radcliffe Hospital
Headley Way
Oxford
OX3 9DU

Email: [email address]

show quoted sections

FOIA (RTH) OUH,

4 Attachments

Dear Dr Mendel
 
Re: FOI/1780
 
Please find below the response to your request made under the Freedom of
Information Act related to information about payments to staff from
pharmaceutical companies. 
 
To comply with our obligations under the Data Protection Act individual
names have been removed from the documents for staff not on the Trust
Board or the Trust Management Executive (a Section 40(2) exemption under
the Freedom of Information Act).  We do not agree that it is in the public
interest to release this information; the areas of practice and/or job
titles is considered sufficient in this instance.
 
 
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to:
 
Megan Turmezei, Assistant Director, Special Projects, John Radcliffe
Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU.
 
Should you wish to make a complaint and are not happy with the outcome,
you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for
a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted the internal complaints procedure. The ICO can be contacted at:
The Information Commissioner’s Office,  Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF
 
Provision of this information does not constitute permission for its
commercial re-use in terms of the Re-Use of Public Sector Information
Regulations 2005.  You are free to use the information for your own use,
including for non-commercial research purposes.  However, any other type
of re-use will require permission from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS
Trust.
 
Regards
 
Sarah Watkins
Planning and Information
John Radcliffe Hospital
Headley Way
Oxford
OX3 9DU
 

show quoted sections

Jonathan Mendel

Dear Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust,

Thanks for your response to my FOI request. Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of the Trust's handling of my FOI request 'Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff'.

Staff names are absent from the information released. Even if staff names may be classed as personal data (as defined by the Data Protection Act) they would be covered by paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act. The release of these data is "necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed" [1]. Spurling et al's systematic review of how information from pharmaceutical companies impacts physicians' prescribing reported that, of the studies included which looked at total promotional investment, three "found that total promotional investment was positively associated with prescribing frequency...Two...found both positive results and no association...One study did not detect an association" [2]. There is thus a legitimate interest in releasing this register: the available research suggests that it is plausible that payments received influence how substantial amounts of public money is spent and the type of care provided to members of the public. Making these data public will open up further opportunities for academic and journalistic research on the impacts of payments and hospitality. It is important to include the names of those declaring interests: among other benefits, this will allow more effective scrutiny of Conflicts of Interest and could allow more extensive analysis: for example, it has been suggested that one could compare declarations on these registers with Conflict of Interest statements on open access pubmed papers.

For the reasons given above, there is a strong public interest in releasing these data in full. While "requests for the personal data of a third party are exempt under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act...if disclosure would contravene section 10 of the Data Protection Act, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress" [1] I would argue that, even if some of those named in these documents feel that their release would cause them damage or distress, this is outweighed by the significant public interest served by releasing these data.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Jonathan Mendel

[1]
http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/info...
[2]
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info...