In 2007, 127 complaints were made about the marketing and promotional practices of pharmaceutical companies in the UK, a slight drop on 2006’s total of 134, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) has reported.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry has received many amendments during its 50 years of operation and the latest revised version will come into effect on July 1, 2008.

The ABPI set up the PMPCA to operate the Code in 1993, and in that time the number of complaints received each year by the Authority has averaged 124, from a low of 92 in 1993 to highs of 145 in both 1994 and 1997.

Last year, 122 cases were considered by the Authority, down from 128 in 2006. The PMPCA points out that the number of cases usually differs from the total complaints because some involve more than one company. Also, some complaints never actually become cases, usually because no prima facie case has been established, it notes.

Fifty-seven complaints were received from health professionals about companies’ marketing and promotional practices last year, while 28 complaints came from other firms – both members and non-members of the ABPI. Complaints made by pharmaceutical companies are generally more complex than those from outside the industry and usually raise a number of issues, says the Authority.

In addition, six complaints were received from members of the public, 15 from pharmaceutical company staff and four from anonymous employees. Two complaints came from organisations, and two further complaints were made anonymously. The remaining 13 complaints were made nominally by the Authority’s director; these arose from media criticism, voluntary admissions by companies and alleged breaches of undertakings made to the PMCPA.

Nifty at fifty?
Meantime, the Code’s 50th anniversary will be marked this year by events including a year-long campaign entitled “The ABPI Code: still nifty at fifty?” which will target Members of Parliament, healthcare professionals and patient groups, as well as the industry and the public relations and marketing sectors. A central focus point of the campaign will be Code Awareness Week, which will be held in early October.

Discussing how the Code has changed in the last 50 years, ABPI president Nigel Brooksby pointed out that transparency and accountability have increased considerably, and that the Code’s requirements have been tightened up, particularly in recent years. “This anniversary provides a great opportunity to look at how far
we’ve come as an industry and to examine where we go from here,” he said.