Drug companies are spending millions of pounds every year on all-expenses-paid trips to conferences around the world for doctors and other hospital staff, in what critics say is a massive marketing exercise dressed up as medical education.
The Guardian can reveal the scale of pharmaceutical company sponsorship following an examination of the registers of gifts and donations to doctors that all hospitals are required to keep. They show considerable largesse - from drug companies regularly picking up hefty bills for travel to international conferences in Europe, Asia and America, to specialist nurses' salaries, and weekly sandwich lunches for hospital staff training sessions.
All-expenses-paid trips to conferences in the US, Vietnam or Hungary are a regular feature of the registers, costing the companies up to £5,000 per doctor. Many of the declarations by doctors do not put a price on the trip. The total amounts received by staff at individual hospital trusts with complete registers are substantial - Sheffield's staff received funding of more than £105,000 from pharmaceutical and medical devices companies in the 12 months to last June.
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