Voluntary disclosures of payments from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare professionals in Germany: a descriptive study of disclosures in 2015 and 2016

BMJ Open. 2020 Sep 17;10(9):e037395. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-037395.


Objective: To analyse voluntary payment reports of pharmaceutical companies to German healthcare professionals (HCPs) in 2015 and 2016 based on an industry-self-regulating transparency codex.

Design and participants: Cohort study of all German HCPs who voluntarily agreed that at least one payment they received in 2015 and 2016 from pharmaceutical companies is disclosed.

Main outcome measures: Number of HCPs who disclosed at least one payment in the database; separated by year of disclosure and whether they disclosed once or repeatedly. Amount of disclosed payments and distribution parameters of disclosed annual payment sums per person; separated by year of disclosure und whether they disclosed once or repeatedly.

Results: 28 230 HCPs agreed to the disclosure of at least one payment in the database. In 2015, 19 905 HCPs agreed to the disclosure, decreasing to 15 782 HCPs in 2016. Whereas 7457 disclosed payments in both years, 12 448 disclosed only in 2015 and 8325 only in 2016. Payments of €32 426 721 in 2015 and €23 289 343 in 2016 were disclosed, that is, 27% and 23% of the total amounts spent on HCPs, respectively. Distribution of annual payments was skewed: the top 1% of HCPs disclosed annual payment sums between €17 049 and €200 194, while the median disclosed annual payment sum per person was €536 (IQR €1092). Disclosed payments were higher in male physicians and in physicians with higher academic degree.

Conclusions: If voluntary, disclosure rates of payments are low and therefore only provide a fragmented picture of interactions between HCPs and pharmaceutical companies. Efforts must be intensified to ensure obligatory disclosure of all payments worldwide.

Keywords: health policy; health services administration & management; quality in health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disclosure*
  • Drug Industry
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • United States


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations