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AUTH/2934/2/17 - Health professional consultant to a pharmaceutical company v Johnson & Johnson

Case number:AUTH/2934/2/17
Case ref:Health professional consultant to a pharmaceutical company v Johnson & Johnson
Description:Promotion of Nicorette
No breach:No Breach Clauses 4.1, 4.3, 9.1, 11.1 and 26.1
Breach:Breach Clause 4.4
Appeal:No appeal
Status:Breach ruled, case report pending
Review:Published in the August 2017 Review
Received:08/02/2017
Completed:10/05/2017
Case Summary:

A complaint was received in a private capacity from a health professional who stated that he/ she worked as a consultant to a pharmaceutical company.

The principles set out above were applied to this complaint. Consultancy status should not be used to circumvent the normal rules for inter-company complaints.

The complainant was advised that if he/she wished to proceed with the complaint in a private capacity Novartis would be named in the case report; and the respondent company would be informed of his/ her professional status and the connection with pharmaceutical companies. The complainant so agreed.

The complaint concerned an online advertisement for Nicorette (nicotine) issued by Johnson & Johnson and was published in Pulse online. The advertisement was headed ‘Nicorette Do Something Incredible’ and referred to combination nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

The complainant stated that there was no generic name on the advertisement nor any mention of where the prescribing information could be found (although if one clicked on the advertisement it was present). It appeared to be a ‘teaser’.

The complainant explained that this style of advertisement might be acceptable for consumer advertising but not for healthcare professionals. The complainant was concerned that there were not adequate internal controls to ensure that it was not used in publications aimed at the wrong audience. The complainant stated that it was diffcult to read the prescribing information as it had not been split into smaller columns and instead was in one large block.

The detailed response from Johnson & Johnson is given below.

As the non-proprietary name was included next to the brand name on the frst banner the Panel ruled no breach of the Code.

The Panel noted that the frst banner did not include a clear, prominent statement as to where the prescribing information could be found and therefore, ruled a breach of the Code.

The Panel did not consider the advertisement was a teaser. Information about Nicorette had been provided, including prescribing information, and thus the Panel ruled no breach of the Code.

The Panel considered that the advertisement was such that it was aimed at prescribers who would be the main audience of Pulse. The Panel therefore ruled no breach of the Code. It noted that the advertisement was for general sales list medicines and not prescription only medicines. The Code prohibited the promotion of prescription only medicines to the public. There could be no breach in that regard and the Panel ruled accordingly.

The Panel considered that although line length at around 140 characters was more than recommended this did not necessarily mean the prescribing information was not legible. The spacing between the lines and emboldening of the headings were helpful. The Panel decided that although on the limits of acceptability the prescribing information was legible and no breach of the Code was ruled.