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UK doctors paid $64 million by drug companies in 2013

LONDON (Reuters) - Doctors in Britain were paid 38.5 million pounds ($64 million) by drugmakers last year, slightly less than 2012, according to new data underscoring the links between the pharmaceutical industry and prescribers.

Industry payments to doctors have come under increased scrutiny following a number of scandals over sales practices, notably in the United States, and concerns that such ties could put commercial interests ahead of the best outcome for patients.

The figure, announced by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) on Thursday, was slightly down on the 2012 level of 40 million pounds.

Criticism of the close relationship between doctors and drug firms has prompted some companies to rethink how they operate. GlaxoSmithKline said in December it would stop paying doctors to promote its drugs, though it will still pay fees for clinical research and advisory work.

A number of other firms have also taken more limited steps to curb physician-related marketing practices, including AstraZeneca, which said in 2011 it was scrapping payments for doctors to attend international congresses.

Under U.S. healthcare law, drug companies are now forced to disclose payments to doctors, while in Europe firms will be required to make public the names of individual doctors they have paid from 2016.

In the interim, the ABPI is providing aggregate figures based in information from 34 out of the top 40 drug companies operating in Britain.

The overall payments to doctors last year comprised 27.7 million pounds for consultancy services and 10.8 million in sponsorship to attend third party meetings, the trade group said.

($1 = 0.6012 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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