Lilly has been found in breach of the Code of Practice after it was revealed the company implemented an incentive competition for representatives.

Under the ruling, the firm failed to maintain high standards, as did the representatives, while briefing materials were not adequate and in line with the Code, the case summary from the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority states.

The case claims that a Lilly representative visited a doctors surgery with a poster as part of the company’s diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain foot symptom assessment tool, and insisted on photographing members of the practice team underneath the poster to win a competition prize.

On review, it was revealed that one of Lilly’s sales managers had implemented a “customer engagement incentive competition” for the team called ‘The Wall of Pain, Hall of Fame Competition’. Described as a project to engage reps and customers to display the poster, the aim for representatives was to have the poster displayed in 10 practices and to photograph the poster “with or without your customer”.

If representatives could each get 10 surgeries photographed then the team would be rewarded with “our usual cocktails”. One point would be awarded for each photograph of a poster in situ without a health professional and two points if a GP or nurse was in the photograph.

Prizes were a £25 cinema voucher for the rep with the most points and a further £25 cinema voucher for the rep with the best, most amusing photograph including a GP or nurse. There was further reference to the ‘bonus prize’ of cocktails if each rep reached 10 surgeries.

The PMCPA panel noted there was no mention of any professional discussion of the poster with healthcare professionals or the benefit of the poster to patient care. There was also no guidance about when/whether to request a photograph, nor to respect the wishes of the surgeries/healthcare professionals in regards to this.

The panel was concerned with a number of factors, notably the name of the competition, which “trivialised the painful complication of diabetes”, and that there was no professional element to the competition.

The panel believed there had been a failure to maintain a high standard of ethical conduct and the competition advocated activities that were likely to breach the Code.

“The panel noted Lilly’s submission that the sales manager at issue had acted independently and that Lilly had not briefed its sales force to undertake the activities at issue. However, the panel considered that that sales manager’s encouragement of representatives to collect points by taking photographs of health professional and rewarding this with cinema vouchers and cocktails was an activity that demeaned both the health professionals and the representatives, and in that regard was likely to bring discredit upon the pharmaceutical industry.”

A breach of Clause 2 was ruled but Lilly appealed this.

On further review, the Appeal Board concluded the activities did not amount to a breach of Clause 2.

A Lilly spokeswoman told PharmaTimes UK News Online that the company had “thoroughly investigated” the issue when it came to their attention, and took steps to stop the competition. This was an “isolated case” and was not centrally authorised, she added. “We do not condone activities that are in breach of the Code.”