Astellas Pharma Ltd is being named and shamed in medical publications following a stream of breaches of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical’s stringent Code of Practice.

Advertisements in the British Medical Journal, The Pharmaceutical Journal, and The Nursing Standard this week detail the company’s so-called fall from grace, after it paid healthcare professionals to attend a series of advisory boards which were - at least in part - found to be disguised promotion.

The complaint was made anonymously by a “hospital clinician” who was invited by Astellas to a series of advisory board meetings about Mycamine (micafungin), which, since its launch in 2008, has reportedly failed to meet sales expectations.

The invitation to potential consultant advisors – who were nominated by members of Astellas’ field force - offered £1,000 for guidance in the future development and marketing of the drug. On the day, the complainant had no particular issue with the agenda but did feel that he was being promoted to more than his advice was sought, as several presentations were delivered by the firm during the meeting.

However, after the meeting the complainant was visited by a member of Astellas’ team during which time he saw a document listing various other attendees who had been present at the meeting and their opinions on Mycamine. It further analysed which of these consultants should be promoted to and whose opinion had been altered by the advisory board with regard to prescribing Mycamine.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority ruled that overall arrangements for the advisory board meeting effectively amounted to “an inducement to prescribe, administer or recommend a medicine”, and thus ruled that the company was in breach of several clauses in the Code, including Clause 2 - bringing discredit upon and reducing confidence in the pharmaceutical industry.

In a statement to PharmaTimes UK News Online, Astellas said it constantly strives to achieve the highest ethical standards and is "fully committed to complying with the ABPI Code of Practice in all of its activities". The company also said it has "taken the necessary steps and measures to ensure all its future activities maintain these high standards" and that it will continue to review these on an ongoing basis.