AUTH/3479/2/21 - Complainant v Almirall

Alleged promotion of a medicine on LinkedIn

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

Case Summary

A contactable complainant who described him/herself as a health professional complained about a LinkedIn post on his/her feed, which seemed to have been added by a senior executive from Almirall and ‘liked’ by a senior UK employee, which in his/her view was promotional in nature. The post read:

‘Good news for psoriasis patients all over Europe! Almirall’s in-licensed, high-affinity, monoclonal antibody has demonstrated long term efficacy and safety over 5 years in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis in an extension study announced in a session at the 29th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV). At Almirall, we are always striving to improve patients quality of life. #Almirall #EADV’

Below that statement was a photograph of a senior executive and a quotation:

‘We are delighted and very proud that we are able to be the first anti-IL-23 to disclose a complete dataset of 5-year data on tildrakizumab.’

Whilst the LinkedIn post was an old one, the complainant had recently found similar posts on Ilumetri in his/her feed which made him/her question if they were appropriate. The complainant queried whether the LinkedIn post which seemed promotional had been checked for appropriateness and it did not seem to have safety information (prescribing information). The complainant found it bizarre that various individuals at Almirall kept ‘liking’ posts and queried if Almirall had rules.

The detailed response from Almirall is given below.

The Panel noted that the original LinkedIn post, which had been issued by Almirall’s Spanish head office, had been ‘liked’ by a senior UK employee. The Panel considered that on the balance of probabilities, the UK employee had proactively disseminated the material to his/her connections on LinkedIn and had thus brought the post within the scope of the UK Code, as acknowledged by Almirall.

The Panel did not know how many connections on LinkedIn the employee in question had and what their professional status was; Almirall made no submission in that regard. On the balance of probabilities, not all of the employee’s connections on LinkedIn would meet the Code’s definition of a health professional or other relevant decision maker and therefore the information had likely been made available to members of the public. The Panel noted that tildrakizumab, a prescription only medicine, was named within the post, which further stated that it had demonstrated long term efficacy and safety over 5 years in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis in an extension study. The Panel thus considered that a prescription only medicine had been promoted to the public and the wording of the LinkedIn post was such that it might encourage members of the public to ask their health professionals for tildrakizumab; breaches of the Code were ruled, as acknowledged by Almirall.

The Panel considered that in disseminating the LinkedIn post to his/her connections, the UK employee who had ‘liked’ the original LinkedIn post had, in effect, created his/her own piece of promotional material which had not been certified and a breach of the Code was ruled. The Panel did not consider that the LinkedIn post was educational material for the public and so in that regard no breach of the Code was ruled.

The Panel further considered that, given the senior employee’s job title, his/her engagement with the LinkedIn post would also have likely disseminated the information to health professionals, thus promoting Ilumetri without the provision of prescribing information for the medicine as required and so a breach of the Code was ruled.

The Panel noted that Almirall’s social media policy clearly explained that if an employee ‘liked’ (or shared) a social media post, that post was brought within the scope of the Code and would be regarded as proactive dissemination to a new audience. All UK employees were instructed not to reference, mention, refer to, link to, ‘like’, or undertake any other form of social media activity regarding an Almirall product.

The Panel was concerned that a senior Almirall employee had, in contravention of UK company policy, ‘liked’ the LinkedIn post in question resulting in, on the balance of probabilities, the subsequent proactive dissemination of information about a prescription only medicine to his/her LinkedIn connections; an action that resulted in rulings of breaches of the Code. In that regard, high standards had not been maintained. A breach of the Code was ruled as acknowledged by Almirall.

The Panel noted its comments and rulings above and considered that the rulings of breaches of the Code adequately covered this matter and an additional ruling of a breach of Clause 2 would be disproportionate in the particular circumstances of this case.