Three pharma firms have been held to account by the ABPI for breaching its Code of Practice and ‘bringing discredit’ upon the industry.

First up is Merz for claiming its Bocouture (botulinum neurotoxin type A) product was clinically equivalent to Allergan’s Botox (botulinum neurotoxin type A), which has licenses to treat wrinkles of the skin, urinary incontinence and migraines.

The second was against Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo for promoting its heart drug Efient (prasugrel), in which the firms were found to be promoting the drug in a misleading way.

The complaint against Merz was filed by the firm’s direct competitor in this arena, Allergan, which said that three advertisements for Bocouture showed the two products standing alongside each other and used phrases such as ‘equipotent’, ‘equal potency’ and ‘1:1 clinical conversion ratio’.

The overall message was that the products were the same and could be interchanged - claims that Allergan alleged were misleading and inaccurate, and didn’t represent the best available evidence.

And the PMCPA, which polices the Code, agreed with Allergan and found Merz in breach for making an “inaccurate, misleading and unsubstantiated claim”, as well as failing to maintain high standards and failing to comply with a previous warning about this type of behaviour.

It was, in addition, found guilty of breaching Clause 2 of the Code - bringing discredit upon and reducing confidence in the pharma industry – which is seen as the most serious breach.

Lilly and Daiichi-Sankyo were also found to have brought discredit to the industry following a complaint from AstraZeneca, which claimed a leavepiece for Efient played down major bleeding side effects, promoted an off-label use, and was overall inaccurate and misleading.

The two firms were ruled to have promoted a medicine in a manner inconsistent with its summary of product characteristics, failing to maintain high standards and failing to reflect the balance of evidence about side effects.