The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) released aggregate totals of payments its member pharma companies made last year to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

ABPI said pharma companies in the UK paid healthcare professionals £40m in sponsorship and support during 2012, reports PMLive (here). This estimate is “based on information received from, or published by, 35 out of the top 44 companies based on UK sales in 2012.”

In comparison, pharma companies paid $150 million dollars to U.S. physicians in the first 8 months of 2012.

These payments are for attending medical education events, training and speaker fees.

Just for fun, I calculated what this comes out to PER physician in order to get an idea of the value of physicians to the pharmaceutical industry in each country.

First, I assume 100% of the money went to physicians, not to nurses (ha! that will be the day!). From Kaiser Health data, I learned that there are 24 physicians per 10,000 people in the US, which has a total population of about 310 million. There are 27 physicians per 10,000 people in the UK, which has a population of 69 million. Thus, there are approximately 186,000 physicians in the UK and 744,000 in the US. I converted £40m to dollars: $60.9m. Doing the math, I find that if the pharma money was equally distributed to all physicians in each country, each UK doc would get $327 whilst each US doc would get only $302.

It’s surprising how similar the numbers are given the margin of error. On the one hand, I would have expected UK docs to be less valued as KOLs, paid consultants, etc. because of the single-payer system in the UK where supposedly docs have less say in which drug to prescribe than do docs in the US. On the other hand, because pharma spends so much on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising in the US, I would have thought less would need to be spent on schmoozing, er… educating, docs.

But pharma money is not distributed equally among docs — at least one physician in the US became a millionaire from the money he received from pharma (see “Pharma Mints Millionaire Doc“). I don’t know if any UK doc was as fortune-ate.