Memorandum by the Association of the British
Pharmaceutical Industry in response to the Institute for Social
Marketing's Analysis of the Pharmaceutical Industry's Marketing
Documents (PI 126)
1. Thank you for sending us a copy of the
Institute for Social Marketing's Analysis of Pharmaceutical Industry
Marketing Documents. The report is based on promotional and "product
support" materials provided by five member companies of the
Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry to the Health
Select Committee and raises many general points relating to the
conduct of the industry.
2. Having received this report on Monday
14 March we understand that we and the companies concerned have
only a matter of days to respond to its contents. It contains
a number of serious allegations, many of which are based on a
poor understanding of the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical
Industry. In particular the report does not distinguish between
internal strategy/market analysis (which is not covered by the
Code) and external marketing actions (which are).
3. The ABPI has not seen the documents submitted
by the companies but it appears that much of the criticism in
the Analysis refers to internal company documents not for use
with either health professionals or the general public.
4. The focus of the Code is on external
activities of the industry and their appropriateness for professional
and public audiences. To take an example prominent in the report:
the use, in an internal market analysis, of language about "targeting"
patient segments that could benefit from a medicine is not tantamount
to directly advertising a prescription-only medicine to the patients
themselves, the latter being both against the Code and against
Our other main points in response to the Analysis
are as follows:
5. We find minimal reference in the Analysis
citing any example of specific individual external activities
contravening the Code. We have, nevertheless, asked the PMCPA
to comment on the Analysis and its comments are attached. The
ABPI invites the Select Committee to provide details of any specific
complaints regarding external company activities or published
material to the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority
(PMCPA) which will take up such matters immediately.
6. A number of the products under review
in this Analysis have already been the subject of cases considered
under the Code of Practice and action taken where breaches have
been ruled. The Analysis does not appear to have taken that
7. The Analysis gives the impression
that all activities that increase the usage of medicines via the
application of established marketing techniques are in breach
of the Code and not in the public interest. This is quite wrong.
The industry is fully entitled to promote medicines to health
professionals (and to provide non-promotional information to the
public about medicines so promoted) provided that the requirements
of the Code are met.
8. Moreover, marketing techniques that recognise
that decisions are made not by computers but by human beings with
needs and emotions are also being adopted by Government on health
matters. The Government's White Paper on Public Health issued
in November 2004 states (Page 20): "A wide range of lifestyle
choices are marketed to people but health itself has not been
marketed. Promoting health on the principles that commercial markets
usemaking it something people aspire to and making healthy
choices enjoyable and convenientwill create a stronger
demand for health . . ."
9. The fact that targeted messages encourage
patients to ask health professionals for advice about a disease
and could lead to successful treatment of that disease should
be welcomed rather than criticised. Government, through the
MHRA, has endorsed the use of such disease awareness campaigns.
That is quite different from advertising prescription-only medicines
to the public, which the Code prohibits and which is not the subject
of any of the criticisms made in the Analysis.
10. The use of public relations is questioned
in the Analysis. This is a perfectly legitimate activity within
the confines of the Code. Pharmaceutical companies are entitled
to inform the media, particularly when this may involve issues
relating to product safety. The support of third party medical/scientific
experts in this work is also quite valid.
11. The ABPI remains of the view that the
Code works well, as set out in the evidence submitted to the Health
Select Committee by the ABPI and by the PMCPA. The publication
of detailed reports of the outcomes of completed cases shows that
the system is fair and transparent.
12. We recognise, however, that there is
always room for improvement and have outlined to you in our evidence
that the Code and its operation is currently the subject of public
consultation and review. We will of course ensure that any legitimate
issues emerging from this Analysis that are currently not covered
by the Code are included in this review.
13. In the interest of fairness and balance
I would hope that you will reflect the above in any publication
of the Institute for Social Marketing's Analysis and accompany
it with equal prominence and publication of both this commentary
and any being provided by the five cited pharmaceutical companies.