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Otsuka, ViiV and AstraZeneca named in ABPI code complaints

Published on 26/05/15 at 11:32am
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A ‘senior male employee’ of Otsuka Pharmaceuticals “potentially brought the industry into disrepute” by plying a female healthcare professional with drinks at an event, the industry code of conduct arbiter has ruled.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) which is the ruling arm of the ABPI, found the employee behaved inappropriately with a female health professional following an industry-funded evening meeting.

The complaint stated that: “A female health professional… entered the bar and started talking to the Otsuka employees. Although she was obviously intoxicated a male Otsuka employee continued to ply her with drinks.

“The body language between the male Otsuka employee and the health professional became more intimate and flirtatious, and after a number of drinks being bought by the male in question for the female health professional, the two left the bar.”

The Panel noted that it has been ‘particularly concerned’ about the senior colleague’s behaviour and ruled that “overall the matter brought discredit upon and reduced confidence in the pharmaceutical industry”.

In AstraZeneca’s case, the UK firm was accused of failing to back up a stat it had tweeted about breast cancer outcomes during the San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium in December 2014.

A British doctor based in the US, whose wife is a breast cancer survivor, challenged the company’s tweet which had claimed that “Approximately 30% of women with early breast cancer will develop advanced or metastatic breast cancer”, and argued that stat was unsubstantiated.

AstraZeneca had cited a reference given in a fact sheet in support of the statement; however the figure of 30% was an unreferenced comment from the author and not based on any data. 

The Panel noted that “given the difficulty in determining a precise figure, the reference to ‘approximately 30% of women’ in the tweet was not unreasonable” and that no breach of the Code had been made.

Further complaints about the distress the statistic in the tweet may have caused women diagnosed with cancer, and regarding AstraZeneca’s delayed response to the original complaint, were not upheld.

ViiV Healthcare made a voluntary admission of breaching the Code with respect to advertising, for appearing in a double page ad and an external wrap for Triumeq (dolutegravir/abacavir/lamivudine) in the same issue of the International Journal of STD and Aids, following an administrative error by the publisher.

Lilian Anekwe

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