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The Code: What does it mean for you?

Posted on: 01 Apr 11


This week is Code Awareness Week and the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) is launching an e-learning module for health professionals

This week is Code Awareness Week and the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) is launching an e-learning module for health professionals

London, 4 April 2011 – The pharmaceutical industry effectively self regulates and operates to the highest ethical standards as laid out in The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry (the Code). This week is Code Awareness Week. The Code was recently updated and will become fully operational from 1 May. Key changes to note are:

1. Promotional aids eg mugs, diaries, stationery and the like are no longer acceptable. Inexpensive pens / notebooks may be provided to health professionals but only for use at meetings and conferences; they must not bear the name of, or information about any medicine (Clauses 18.1 and 18.3).
2. Patient support items can be provided to health professionals to pass on to patients (Clause 18.2).
3. The monetary value of financial support to patient organisations must be published for activities commenced on or after 1 May 2011 or ongoing on that date (Clause 23.7).
4. From 2013 pharmaceutical companies must publish the previous year’s details about the total payments to health professionals and others for certain services, such as speaker fees and participating in advisory boards (Clauses 20.2, 20.3, 20.4). There is no requirement to name individuals.
5. From 2013 details of the previous year’s donations and grants to organisations, etc. must be made publicly available (Clause 18.6).

To help health professionals understand these requirements and others covered in the Code the PMCPA is launching an e-learning module (available at: and a Quick Guide to the Code for Health Professionals. The e-learning module is interactive and lays out how the pharmaceutical industry can promote medicines to health professionals. Key points from the Code covered in the e-learning module include the content of advertisements and arrangements for meetings. The e-learning module has been certified as meeting the guidelines for continuing professional development.

The PMCPA has also published informal guidance on digital communication to help increase understanding on how the pharmaceutical industry can use this media. The promotion of prescription only medicines to the public is prohibited. Under the Code the industry can provide factual and balanced information to the public about prescription only medicines. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has welcomed the PMCPA’s informal guidance.

To assist in Code compliance, the pharmaceutical industry trains all of its employees from chief executives, through to marketing, sales, regulatory affairs and medical directors. Companies also regularly refer to the Code in their corporate responsibility documentation. Companies ruled in breach of the Code must withdraw the material at issue forthwith. Depending upon the circumstances a number of sanctions can be applied and details of the most serious breaches are publicised in advertisements in the medical, nursing and pharmaceutical press. Detailed reports on all complaints are published on the PMCPA website ( and in the Code of Practice Review. Rulings under the Code are made in the first instance by the Code of Practice Panel with both parties having the right to appeal those rulings to the Code of Practice Appeal Board. The industry takes breaches of the Code very seriously.

Claire Eldridge, Aurora

Last updated on: 04/04/2011 09:23:19

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