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Exhibition passport schemes or treasure hunts


Pharmaceutical companies occasionally ask the Authority if it is acceptable for them to participate in exhibition passport schemes or treasure hunts proposed by the conference organisers.  The idea is usually that delegates are given a conference 'passport' upon which they can collect stamps from each exhibitor by visiting their stands.  Passports with a full set of stamps are then placed in a raffle and the person whose passport is drawn first wins a prize – typically a Kindle or iPad mini etc.

Clause 18 of the Code relates to items for patients and health professionals.  The supplementary information to Clause 18.1 refers, inter alia, to competitions and quizzes and states that the use of competitions, quizzes and suchlike, and the giving of prizes, are unacceptable methods of promotion.  This does not preclude the use at promotional meetings of quizzes which are intended to gauge attendees' knowledge of the subject matter of the meetings, provided that such quizzes are non-promotional in nature and are bona fide tests of skill that recognise the professional standing of the audience and no prizes are offered.  To be acceptable a quiz must form part of the meeting's formal proceedings.  Exhibition stands must not be included in any way in the conduct of a quiz.

Pharmaceutical companies participating in passport competitions, treasure hunts or the like risk breaching the Code as delegates will be required to visit their stands, which will almost certainly be promoting medicines, to collect passport stickers.  In the Authority's view such schemes are unacceptable under the Code.  They do not involve bona fide tests of skill as set out in the supplementary information to Clause 18.1 and include exhibition stands contrary to the supplementary information to Clause 18.1.  The giving of prizes in association with quizzes and competitions is always unacceptable irrespective of the nature of the gift.

This would apply even if entry in to the draw is not dependent upon the entire passport being completed.

The only item that can be given to individual health professionals must satisfy the requirements set out in Clause 18 and its supplementary information.  The involvement of a pharmaceutical company in the provision of any items beyond those set out in the Code would, in the Authority's view, be unacceptable in relation to Clause 18 regardless of the cost to the company.

That a passport scheme or treasure hunt is organised by a third party would be immaterial as pharmaceutical companies are responsible under the Code for any activity undertaken by themselves, or with their authority, which promotes the administration, consumption, prescription, purchase, recommendation, sale, supply or use of their medicines (Clause 1.2​ of the Code refers).  By participating in such schemes, companies would be giving their authority for the schemes to be conducted on their behalf.