The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) referred a complaint to the PMCPA that it had received from Teva UK about the provision of a chocolate hamper to a group of health professionals by a representative from Pharmasure.
Teva explained that, in December, its meeting for a clinical team at a named hospital, was briefly interrupted by a representative from Pharmasure droping off a substantial high street chocolate hamper. The gift to the team was on behalf of Pharmasure.
Teva alleged that the gift was inappropriate as it was not inexpensive or relevant to the practice of medicine or pharmacy.
The detailed response from Pharmasure is given below.
The Panel noted Pharmasure’s submission that its representative had promoted both supplements and prescription only medicines (POMs) to the fertility unit up until November 2017. When the chocolate hamper was delivered he/she solely promoted medicines to the unit but none were discussed during the visit. The Panel disagreed with Pharmasure’s submission that this meant that the chocolate hamper was not provided in connection with the promotion of any medicines.
The Panel considered that whilst promotional activity in relation to supplements was not within the scope of the Code, if a representative promoting supplements called on the same health professionals to promote medicines then the Code would apply.
The Panel noted that a representative whose role was to promote medicines had given a chocolate hamper to a group of health professionals. The Code prohibited the provision of items to health professionals save for very limited circumstances. The chocolate hamper did not fit within the exemptions set out in the Code.
The Panel noted Pharmasure’s submission regarding the relevance of UK law as at the time the company was not covered by the Code.
The Panel could only rule in relation to the Code. The prohibitions in the Code regarding the provision of items to health professionals etc although more restrictive than UK law, were not inconsistent with those requirements which allowed items that were inexpensive and relevant to the practice of medicine or pharmacy. Given the requirements of UK law the Panel did not consider it was unreasonable to rule that the provision of the chocolate hamper was unacceptable and in breach of the Code.
The Panel noted Pharmasure’s estimation that representatives who promoted medicines had given chocolate hampers to up to 15 fertility units. Extra care and guidance was required when representatives promoted medicines and something not covered by the Code such as supplements. The Panel considered that the provision of the chocolate hamper by the representative who promoted medicines meant that Pharmasure had not maintained high standards. A further breach of the Code was ruled. The Panel considered that whilst it could be argued that the representative had not maintained a high standard and had failed to comply with the Code, this was due to the company’s arrangements and in that regard the matter was covered by its ruling above. No further breach was ruled.
The Panel noted its ruling above regarding the provision of the hamper and considered that the arrangements brought discredit upon, and reduced confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry. A breach of Clause 2 was ruled.
The Panel was concerned about the arrangements, however it noted that when the chocolate hampers were given the company was not on the list of nonmember companies that had agreed to comply with the Code and accept the jurisdiction of the PMCPA. In the exceptional circumstances of this case, and on balance, the Panel decided not to report Pharmasure to the Code of Practice Appeal Board.