Select Committee on Health Written Evidence


Letter from AstraZeneca to the Clerk of the Committee (PI 131)



  Thank you for sending us a copy of The Institute of Social Marketing's report "An Analysis of the Pharmaceutical Industry's Marketing Documents" and for the opportunity to respond. We are concerned with the premises upon which the report appears to have been based which leads us to have reservations about its conclusions:

    —  the report appears to assert that—in principle—the use of commercial marketing techniques in the promotion of prescription pharmaceuticals to the NHS is an inappropriate, undesirable activity and contrary to existing legislation and the ABPI Code of Practice; and

    —  further, the report does not appear to distinguish in its allegations between internal documents detailing strategy and market analysis, which are not subject to the Code, and external market activities, which must adhere to the Code.

  A substantial majority of the material that we submitted to the Health Select Committee was internal documentation of analysis, discussion and planning.

  Not only do we operate within the ABPI Code of Practice, but we pride ourselves on our ethical marketing and business practices. We strive to produce appropriate communications and materials all of which go through a rigorous internal approval process. During the two year period for the products considered in the report, activities which resulted in complaints were dealt with under the Code in the appropriate way and actions taken where breaches were ruled (Ref: Code of Practice Review, published by the PMCPA). Whilst the documents provided by us to the Committee must, as agreed, remain confidential, we wish to ensure that the Committee has recourse to the PMCPA. Should they wish to make a specific complaint regarding external activities, we would be pleased to discuss any such example.

  We undertake our marketing activities to the highest professional standards. We strongly believe that the marketing and communications regarding our medicines play a crucial role in their appropriate use and the wider provision of healthcare in the UK. We work hard to understand the experiences of patients who may receive our medicines, and the complexities of the diseases from which they suffer. Firstly, this ensures that our communications to healthcare professionals are informed by insight into the patients they will be seeing and treating. Secondly, this supports appropriate communications to healthcare professionals about our medicines and sometimes supports a conscious decision to promote healthcare awareness to patients and patient groups.

  The news media play an increasingly influential role in the public awareness of disease, healthcare and medicines. However newspaper articles do not always result in the public being appropriately and accurately informed. AstraZeneca is committed to providing accurate information to meet the needs of healthcare professionals, members of the public and journalists. There must be an accurate understanding of the risks and benefits of medicines. We believe that our activities encourage the appropriate use of medicines and correct misleading information.

  Medical treatment decisions are made based on both the rational and emotional motivations of both healthcare professional and patient. It is frequently necessary to take these factors into account in our communications, and in this way to facilitate optimal outcomes for patients.

  As an industry, the medicines that we provide are central to the health and wellbeing of UK patients. The reputation and trust of the industry are a vital part of this. As a leading UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca takes these issues very seriously. Should the Committee have remaining concerns that are not satisfied by this memorandum, nor by recourse to the PMCPA, we would want to continue this important discussion promptly with the Committee.

  We would like to emphasise that a balanced consideration of the marketing of medicines in the UK should be based on a firm knowledge and grasp of the current practice of scientific innovation, medical practice, commercial marketing and ABPI Code of Practice. In our view, the current report represents an overly narrow perspective on these areas.

  We hope that these comments are a constructive contribution to an important review by the Health Select Committee.

18 March 2005

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