AUTH/3468/2/21 - Anonymous employee v Sanofi

Promotional email about Toujeo

  • Received
    03 February 2021
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    09 July 2021
  • No breach Clause(s)
  • Breach Clause(s)
  • Sanctions applied
    Undertaking received
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal

Case Summary

An anonymous, non-contactable complainant who described themselves as a Sanofi employee complained about an email that had been sent to the salesforce headed ‘Toujeo news – Patient material & Digital campaign’.

Toujeo (insulin glargine solution (300 units/ml solution for injection in a pre-filled pen) was indicated for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in adults, adolescents and children from the age of 6 years.

The email at issue began by referring to the availability of the Toujeo SoloStar and DoubleStar printed booklets and how they could be ordered. Then beneath the heading, ‘On another note’, referred to digital campaigns run by Sanofi to complement the efforts in the field. The email referred to three campaigns for health professionals and that representatives were made aware of one of the campaigns in particular should any health professionals reach out after seeing it. The representatives were also informed that the content of the email was for internal awareness only and not to be shared externally. The email then included some screenshots to show representatives the promotional messaging within one of the digital campaigns.

The complainant stated that in his/her view, a patient support update should not be included in an email which also included promotional messaging as that could be interpreted that employees should use patient materials to promote their products. The complainant was also concerned that promotional messaging and content were rife within the email and he/she could not see any form of approval code.

The complainant submitted that he/she did not feel comfortable raising the matter with any of the senior leaders within his/her business unit as he/she considered that that would impact on his/her career.

The detailed response from Sanofi is given below.

The Panel considered that whilst patient materials must not constitute promotion of a prescription only medicine to the public, the Code did not prohibit referring to patient materials in promotional material for health professionals. The availability and content of the patient materials might be a factor for a health professional in deciding between similarly appropriate treatments for a condition. It was not necessarily a breach of the Code to refer to patient materials in communications to representatives which also referred to promotional campaigns/messaging.

In relation to the allegation in this case, the Panel considered that referring to the patient materials and the promotion of medicines in the same email was not in itself inappropriate as alleged. It therefore did not consider that Sanofi had failed to maintain high standards in this regard and no breach of the Code was ruled.

The Panel considered that announcing the availability of the patient materials and how to order them and then details of the promotional digital campaigns to be run should any health professionals reach out after seeing them would be seen as instructions to representatives regarding the promotion of the medicines. The Panel thus considered that the email should have been certified as briefing material. The failure to do so was ruled in breach of the Code including that high standards had not been maintained as acknowledged by Sanofi.