Vifor Pharma has been found in breach of the Code of Practice for the failure to meet undertakings of a previous ruling that found the company in breach of the Code.  

The case was initially brought to the attention of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority by a GP, who claimed that Vifor advertisements had not been certified prior to publication. The company voluntarily admitted it was guilty and the panel ruled a breach of the Code.

However, the panel also noted that the advertisements at issue featured the strapline, ‘Mastering the art of iron therapy’, which had already been found in breach of the Code in a separate case last year.   

That breach related to advertisements for Ferinject (ferric carboxymaltose solution for injection/ infusion), a treatment for iron deficiency. The strapline, ‘Mastering the art of iron therapy’, was considered by the panel to imply that Ferinject had a non-specific special merit compared with other iron therapies. This claim was considered misleading and a breach of the Code was ruled. At the time, Vifor accepted the ruling and provided the relevant undertaking and assurance.

As such, the advertisements in the current case were potentially in breach of undertaking, the panel noted. However, as no complaint had been made regarding the strapline in the current case, the panel could not take the matter further.

However, after the situation was noted in the case report, the complainant asked for a breach of undertaking to be investigated.

“The panel’s comments in this regard appeared to have prompted the complaint now at issue. It was very unusual to receive a subsequent complaint about such a matter,” the case summary stated.

After a further investigation the panel ruled that “repeated use of the claim ‘Mastering the art of iron therapy’ breached the undertaking given in Case AUTH/2423/7/11 and in that regard high standards had not been maintained”.

Vifor was found in breach of Clause 2 (Discredit to, and Reduction of Confidence in, the Industry), 9.1 (High standards must be maintained at all times) and 25 (Compliance with Undertakings).

“The panel noted the importance of undertakings and considered that failure to comply with the undertaking and assurance previously given in Case AUTH/2423/7/11 had brought discredit upon and reduced confidence in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Meanwhile, Vifor found itself in a similar situation earlier this year when it was found guilty of failing to comply with an undertaking after it left two press passes on its website with similar claims to material that had previously been ruled in breach of the Code.

Again the case related to Ferinject, but this time the issue was with the claim Ferinject “avoids dextran-induced hypersensitivity reactions”, which was found to wrongly imply that the product is free from hypersensitivity reactions.