Medicines Australia Code of Conduct: breaches

Aust Prescr 2008;31:162-3

The Medicines Australia Code of Conduct guides the promotion of prescription products by pharmaceutical companies.1 Each year Medicines Australia publishes a report, from its Code of Conduct Committee, which details all the complaints that have been received about advertising and other promotional activities.

This year's report2 differs from previous reports because of increased scrutiny of educational events. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission now requires Medicines Australia to report details of the educational events held or sponsored by member companies. This information is available on the Medicines Australia website (at www.medicinesaustralia.com.au).

Medicines Australia appointed an independent auditor to check that the educational events contained in the reports complied with the Code of Conduct. This resulted in the Medicines Australia Monitoring Committee referring 52 events to the Code of Conduct Committee. As there were only 83 new complaints in 2007-08, educational events account for most of the total.

Table 1 shows 37 cases where at least one breach of the Code of Conduct was found. The majority of cases involved educational events where the hospitality was deemed to be out of proportion to the educational content of the event. The Code of Conduct still applies even if the event is held overseas. These transgressions resulted in a range of fines. A dinner for four specialists in Adelaide attracted a fine of $10 000 while dinner for nine specialists at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco attracted a fine of $50 000. Inappropriately luxurious and extravagant hospitality resulted in one company being fined $175 000.

While most of the promotional activity was directed at prescribers, nurses and pharmacists also attended events which breached the Code of Conduct.

Detailed information about the complaints can be found in the annual report of the Code of Conduct Committee.2

References

  1. Medicines Australia. Code of Conduct. 15th ed. 2006. Amended 2007.
    http://www.medicinesaustralia.com.au [cited 2008 Nov 10]
  2. Medicines Australia Code of Conduct Annual Report 2007/2008. Canberra: Medicines Australia; 2008.
    http://www.medicinesaustralia.com.au [cited 2008 Nov 10]
Table 1
Breaches of the Code of Conduct July 2007 - June 2008

Company

Product or activity

Sanction imposed by Code of Conduct Committee


Abbott

Reductil (sibutramine)

Withdraw promotional material
$10 000 fine

Allergan

Extravagant hospitality

$175 000 fine

Amgen

Extravagant hospitality

$10 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$50 000 fine

AstraZeneca

Crestor (rosuvastatin)

Withdraw promotional material (previously found in breach of the Code)
$80 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$10 000 fine

Baxter

Extravagant hospitality

$35 000 fine

Biogen

Extravagant hospitality

$10 000 fine

Boehringer Ingelheim

Micardis (telmisartan)

Withdraw promotional material
$25 000 fine

CSL

Extravagant hospitality

$50 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$40 000 fine

Device Technologies

Penthrox (methoxyflurane)

Withdraw material from website
Corrective letter

Eli Lilly

Actos (pioglitazone)

Corrective letter (already sent)

GlaxoSmithKline

Seretide (fluticasone/salmeterol)

Withdraw detailing aid
Corrective letter
$50 000 fine

Seretide (fluticasone/salmeterol)

Withdraw promotional material
$50 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$20 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$100 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$90 000 fine

Hospira

Eligard (leuprorelin)

Withdraw promotional material
Corrective letter
$50 000 fine

Ipsen

Extravagant hospitality

$30 000 fine

Nycomed

Extravagant hospitality

$70 000 fine reduced to $35 000 on appeal

Extravagant hospitality

$60 000 fine

Octapharma

Octagam (immunoglobulin)

Withdraw promotional material
Corrective letter
$50 000 fine

Pfizer

Lipitor (atorvastatin)

Withdraw promotional material
$50 000 fine

Crestor (rosuvastatin)

Corrective letter
Company staff to comply with the Code
$200 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$20 000 fine

Pharmion

Extravagant hospitality

$25 000 fine

Roche

Media releases

Remove media releases from website
$60 000 fine reduced to $40 000 on appeal
$40 000 fine
$20 000 fine increased to $30 000 on appeal

Sanofi-aventis

Actonel (risedronate)

Withdraw detailing aid
Corrective letter
$100 000 fine reduced to $80 000 on appeal

Schering-Plough

Olmetec (olmesartan)

Withdraw promotional material
Corrective letter
Corrective advertisement
Amend minimum product information

Olmetec (olmesartan)

Corrective advertisement
$50 000 fine

Servier

Extravagant hospitality

$20 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$60 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$50 000 fine

Solvay

Extravagant hospitality

$20 000 fine

Extravagant hospitality

$80 000 fine

Wyeth

Extravagant hospitality

$35 000 fine



Medicine Update

Medicine Update is an online publication from the National Prescribing Service, designed for patients who may have been prescribed medicines recently listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Medicine Update is available at www.nps.org.au/consumers/publications/medicine_update and can be read in conjunction with the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet.

The December issues cover:

  • tramadol and its new extended-release formulation
  • zoledronic acid, a once-yearly intravenous bisphosphonate for osteoporosis.

Both medicines are also reviewed for health professionals in the December issue of NPS RADAR at www.npsradar.org.au


First published online: December - 2008