British Pharmaceutical Industry's Code of Practice
The pharmaceutical industry effectively self regulates and operates to the highest ethical standards as laid out in The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry (the Code).
The Code sets standards for the promotion of medicines to health professionals and appropriate administrative staff in the UK. It includes requirements for the provision of information to patients and the public and relationships with patient groups. The Code also applies to a number of areas that are non-promotional.
The Code covers:
- journal, direct mail and digital advertising
- the activities of representatives, including any materials used by them
- the supply of samples
- the provisions of inducements to prescribe, supply, administer, buy or sell medicines, by the gift, offer or promise of any benefit or bonus whether in money or in kind
- the provision of hospitality
- promotional meetings
- the sponsorship of scientific and other meetings including payment of travel and accommodation expenses
- all other sales promotion including exhibitions and digital communications
- the provision of information to the public
- relationships with patient organisations.
To help health professionals understand these requirements and others covered in the Code the PMCPA is launching an e-learning module (available at: www.pmcpa.org.uk) and a Quick Guide to the Code for Health Professionals. The e-learning module is interactive and lays out how the pharmaceutical industry can promote medicines to health professionals. Key points from the Code covered in the e-learning module include the content of advertisements and arrangements for meetings. The e-learning module has been certified as meeting the guidelines for continuing professional development.
The PMCPA has also published informal guidance on digital communication to help increase understanding on how the pharmaceutical industry can use this media. The promotion of prescription only medicines to the public is prohibited. Under the Code the industry can provide factual and balanced information to the public about prescription only medicines. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has welcomed the PMCPA’s informal guidance.
To assist in Code compliance, the pharmaceutical industry trains all of its employees from chief executives, through to marketing, sales, regulatory affairs and medical directors. Companies also regularly refer to the Code in their corporate responsibility documentation. Companies ruled in breach of the Code must withdraw the material at issue forthwith. Depending upon the circumstances a number of sanctions can be applied and details of the most serious breaches are publicised in advertisements in the medical, nursing and pharmaceutical press. Detailed reports on all complaints are published on the PMCPA website (www.pmcpa.org.uk) and in the Code of Practice Review. Rulings under the Code are made in the first instance by the Code of Practice Panel with both parties having the right to appeal those rulings to the Code of Practice Appeal Board. The industry takes breaches of the Code very seriously.