Abbott Laboratories has been reinstated to membership of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) following the company’s suspension in February for failing to abide by the industry body’s recently revamped voluntary Code of Practice.

Abbott was suspended from membership for a minimum of six months after it was found to be in breach of the code, including Clause 2 which deals with activities that bring discredit on, or reduce confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry.

Specifically, the company was punished for offering ‘inappropriate’ hospitality for healthcare professionals as a means of promoting its products, a practice against which the ABPI has taken a serious line. But a damning report from lobby group Consumers International last month insists that marketing disguised as education is still widespread in the industry, and self-regulation is not a powerful enough tool to tackle the issue.

For its part, the ABPI Board of Management said that the importance of complying with the Code of Practice had been made clear to all Abbott staff, and an audit report in May referred to the company’s commitment to compliance and its progress in recent months.

On the back of that, it was decided that Abbott should be reinstated to membership with effect from 1 July, but that there should be a further audit within six months to ensure progress is being maintained.

The ABPI insisted that self-regulation is working well in the UK, and that the CI report findings were not representative of the European industry as a whole because it was carried out only in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Finland and Slovenia. The UK's combination of legal statutes and self-regulation is effective and transparent, it said, as the Abbott case demonstrates.