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Chugai falls foul of ABPI code for close consultant relationship

Published on 17/07/15 at 10:24am

Bosses at Chugai have been rapped by the industry’s code of practice regulator, after a senior manager failed to declare a ‘close, personal friendship’ with a pharmacist who the firm paid £30,000 in consultancy fees.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority’s investigation centred around a complaint brought by an anonymous, uncontactable ex-employee of Chugai Pharma. The former employee complained about the company’s appointment of a consultant, who worked as a pharmacist at an NHS trust, and the company’s general attitude towards Code compliance.

The complaint alleged that “a senior Chugai manger and the pharmacist were socially very close and often went on nights out. The manager often boasted of the relationship with the pharmacist and of how information could be obtained by ‘bringing [the pharmacist] for a few drinks’. 

The former employee claimed they had heard the senior manager and the pharmacists “favourably discussing the prescribing of Chugai medicines”, and had felt unable to speak out about their discomfort with the closeness of the relationship to managers – who appeared unaware – because of the fear of the sack.

In its investigation the Panel uncovered that the consultant had been paid £1,375 for services in 2012; less than 1% of Chugai’s total spend on consultants that year.  However in 2014, the consultant carried out seven contracts for the company (less than 6% of the 123 contracts that year), but was paid £28,225 plus expenses – around 29% of the company’s total spend on consultants for that year, and more for an additional £35,000 agency project.

The complainant had not provided any evidence this payment was an inducement to increase medicines prescribing. But the Panel did rule there had been a breach of clause 2 - discredit to, and reduction of confidence in the industry – because the relationship between the senior manager and the pharmacist had not been declared as a conflict of interest. “The Panel considered that the senior manager’s conduct in this regard had not maintained high standards”, the case report states.

“In the Panel’s view it was extremely important that clear distinctions were made between business and personal arrangements. Given the relationship between the health professional and the senior manager, it would be difficult for the engagement of the health professional not to be seen as a direct consequence of that relationship.”

The company’s records show it paid just under £100,000 for 123 healthcare professionals in 2014, while the industry as a whole paid healthcare professionals over £41 million. From next year, companies will have to declare payments made to individual healthcare professionals.  

Lilian Anekwe

Read the full panel ruling here.

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