AUTH/3696/10/22 - Complainant v SOBI

  • Received
    11 October 2022
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    27 July 2023
  • No breach Clause(s)
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal

Case Summary

This case was in relation to an article sponsored by SOBI (Swedish Orphan Biovitrum Ltd) and published in the print and online versions of The Guardian.

The Panel ruled no breach of the following Clauses of the 2021 Code because:

  • it did not consider that the complainant had established that the article advertised prescription only medicines to the public or that the article was disguised promotion
  • it considered that the context of the phrase ‘without compromise’ was sufficiently clear in the heading ‘Taking steps to support people with haemophilia live life without compromise’ and the complainant had not provided any reasons to support the allegation that the phrase in question was ‘ludicrous’ and therefore had not established that it was either misleading or incapable of substantiation
  • the complainant had not provided any detailed reasons to support their assertion that the statement in the article that Sobi was in “a unique position” because it was a small company was not a unique feature. The Panel considered that the statement in question primarily linked the company’s ‘unique position’ to its dedicated focus on rarer diseases, rather than its size and the complainant had not established that the claim at issue was misleading on the ground alleged
  • it did not consider that mention of a tool called ‘liberation maps’ implied that patients would be liberated from haemophilia; the purpose of the tool appeared to be clear in the article and there was no evidence to support the complainant’s allegation that Sobi had mislead the reader by using the phrase ‘liberation maps’ or that there was a misleading implication that could not be substantiated
  • in its view the statement regarding higher mortality rates in haemophilia referred to great strides having been made to improve therapies over the past 30 or 40 years, people with haemophilia having previously suffered from higher mortality and severe disabilities, it referred to an improvement in mortality rates over time and was not unqualified as alleged
  • it did not consider that Sobi had linked the reference to sponsorships and grants to any Sobi medicines, either directly or indirectly such that the article was contrary to Clause 23.2 as alleged
  • it noted that reference to wraparound services in the article in question referred to the fact that the condition was not just treated by the clinician but by a whole set of wraparound services, among other things and considered that the statement at issue appeared to be reasonably clear and the complainant had not established why failure to identify the services or explain the patient benefit rendered the statement in breach of the Code the complainant made very broad allegations in relation to ‘indirect attempts pharma companies made to indirectly promote drugs through advocacy group pressure’ but provided no evidence to support them it did not consider Sobi had failed to maintain high standards in relation to those matters within the scope of the complaint

No Breach of Clause 3.6

Requirement that materials and activities must not be disguised promotion

No Breach of Clause 6.1

Requirement that information must not be misleading


No Breach of Clause 6.2

Requirement that claims/information/comparisons must be capable of substantiation

No Breach of Clause 23.2

Requirement that grants and donations to healthcare organisations, patient organisations or other organisations do not constitute an inducement to recommend and/or prescribe, purchase, supply, sell or administer specific medicines

No Breach of Clause 26.1

Requirement not to advertise prescription only medicines to the public

No Breach of Clause 27.1

Requirement that when pharmaceutical companies interact with patient organisations or any user organisation, companies must not promote or request the promotion of a particular prescription only medicine

No Breach of Clause 5.1

Requirement to maintain high standards

This summary is not intended to be read in isolation.
            For full details, please see the full case report below.