A record haul of ten pharma companies have been found guilty of breaching the ABPI Code at a urology meeting in Ireland last year.

The companies include: Pfizer, Orion, Ferring, Astellas, Baxter, Ipsen, Allergan, Takeda, Recordati and Janssen.

The complaint, brought by a group of NHS health professionals, criticised the companies who were all supporting the annual meeting organised by the Irish Society of Urology (ISU), which was held in Belfast in September 2012.

The complainants said that the first page of the scientific programme, which was handed out to NHS staff attending the event, featured photographs of the very luxurious, five-star venue and nearby attractions, which they felt placed “undue emphasis on non-scientific aspects” of the meeting. 

The welcome message on the first page of programme also read: ‘The social aspect of this meeting is extremely important and the two evening events promise great enjoyment. The unique opportunity to have our gala dinner in Stormont was one that we couldn’t pass over!’

Most of a second day of the meeting was dedicated to playing golf and leisure activities as clearly marked in the programme, the health professionals said.

The complainants alleged that the pharma companies that supported this meeting seriously breached the Code on the grounds of “excessive hospitality”. The PMCPA said that it considered that the scientific content was “not unreasonable”, adding that it had consisted of one and a half days of education. 

But taking all the circumstances into account, the PMCPA panel said it appeared that the pharma companies listed on the back page of the programme had supported all the arrangements for the two-day meeting held at a luxurious venue with golf and a gala dinner, and found that the impression this gave was “unacceptable”. 

It therefore found that high standards had not been met and ruled all ten firms in breach of the Code.

The Panel also considered that purchasing a ticket for the gala dinner was inappropriate, saying the educational content of that day (which lasted for 3 hours 40 minutes in the morning) did not justify the gala dinner in the evening, which appeared to be a social event; high standards had not been met, and breaches of the Code were again ruled.

But the PMCPA stopped short of finding these firms guilty of bringing the pharma industry into disrepute, the most damaging breach available.