The UK Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) received 92 complaints last year, down from 112 in 2008, but last year also saw a sharp rise in “individual allegations,” which totalled 455 compared with 280 the year before.

There was also a significant increase in the number of matters appealed last year, rising to 67 from 32 in 2008, and 44 matters were successfully appealed in 2009, compared to just nine in the previous year, according to the Authority’s latest annual report.

The proportion of rulings by the Code of Practice Panel that were successfully appealed rose last year to 10%, or 44 out of 455, compared with just 3% - nine out of 280 - in 2008, writes William Harbage QC, chairman of the Code of Practice Appeal Board.

Some cases dealt with by the Authority last year included a large number of allegations arising from inter-company complaints, and these took a considerable amount of time for the Panel to examine prior to the consideration of any appeal, says Mr Harbage, who adds: “clear, succinct inter-company complaints would help in reducing the time taken to complete cases.”

The percentage of complaints brought by pharmaceutical companies fell last year to 29%, or 24 out of the 92, compared to 29% (33 out of 112) in 2008. In most years, the PMCPA receives more complaints from health professionals than from companies, and this continued to be the case last year, with health professionals bringing 43% (40) of the cases compared to 39% (44) in 2008.

Work began last year on the regular review of the Code of Practice, which happens every couple of years, as well as possible amendments resulting from discussions as part of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Trust Imperative activities, which are examining possible changes in behaviour by pharmaceutical companies aimed at enhancing the industry’s reputation.

The PCMPA - which operates independently of the ABPI and reports directly to the Association’s board of management - says it is expected that a new Code will be before ABPI members this year, for implementation in 2011, while a new Constitution and Procedure for the Authority have been agreed and will also be introduced next year.