The Association of British Healthcare Industries has extended the scope of its Code of Business Practice to include regulations on the advertisement of products to healthcare professionals.


It is hoped that the move will address the problem that under current UK law and other advertising codes it is difficult to take legal action or make a compliant against misleading promotional material directed at healthcare professionals.


In addition, it should help to deter any unscrupulous advertisements that make misleading claims or inappropriate comparisons between medical device products, thereby bringing disrepute on the medical devices industry.


The reach of the guidelines includes all routes of advertising to healthcare professionals, across all forms of media, and must be adhered to by all ABHI members. 


The ABHI says all information contained within such advertising must be "accurate, balanced, fair, objective and unambiguous", and advertisers must be able to show documented evidence to support any product claims. 


All evidence must be "relevant, balanced, comprehensive and credible", and advertisers must hold documentary evidence to substantiate all claims regarding a product.


Crucially, comparative advertising is only allowed when it does not make misleading claims, and it must be accurate and substantiated.


The ABHI can now request that companies substantiate any claims or comparisons on products within 30 working days, including the provision of access to all relevant data, even if sensitive in nature (with a confidentiality agreement).


Naming and shaming ?

Much like with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, failure to comply with the ABHI's new advertising code will result in naming and shaming the company in question, the publication of corrective statements where necessary, and suspension or expulsion from the Association.


Well, the outcome of the complaint will be available on the ABHI's website so it's not exaclty naming and shaming, but the information will be in the public domain, a spokesperson for the Association told PharmaTimes UK News.


The Guidelines on Advertisements and Promotions addressed solely or primarily to Healthcare Professionals came into force for new promotional materials from April this year, while those already in existence will have to comply by January 2013.


The ABHI has also launched a new Code of Business Practice website to offer a single access portal that will soon be available also to non-members, the idea being that this will allow the whole of the industry to conform to the highest ethical standards, it said.