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Dear Pharma Veterans. This series of Blogs is to share my learning about Pharma Business in Pakistan. It will be a series spread over several parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.

Pharma Business – Marketing – ETHICS IN PROMOTION

Mr. Ejaz Ahmed, Director at Searle Company has raised the point of Ethics in Promotion. Thank you very much Ejaz sahib for the pointer. I dedicate part 5 to this important aspect.

Question of Ethical promotion was not raised until about twenty years ago. Things started changing, first insidiously and then more openly.

In retrospect, I see that one important contributing factor was relatively higher-priced drugs. For example, when Streptokinase was launched at 5000 rupees an injection, several segments woke up to the possibility of making some money somehow. In a well-known institute, even the guards expected to get a little money from the pharmacy for every vial brought by the patient. PPIs, Quinolone antibiotics and 3rd generation cephalosporin injections became hugely popular items for raising money. It is true that the drugs were given to patients who needed these, but one brand could be favored over the other for a favor received. I have no hesitation in saying that the trend of less-than-ethical promotion was started by the pharma industry. It was expanded and diversified by the leading, aggressive marketers in order to get higher, quicker growth and larger market share. Some things cannot be undone, and this is certainly one of them. Lately, the pharma industry has been crying foul about it and there are growing voices to stop this.

Ethics in promotion are based on age-old, fundamental principles.

  1. Give, full and accurate information about drug to doctors and patients
  2. Promote your product by showing your superiority but do not undermine the competition
  3. Influence prescription through knowledge and customer relations, not by offering gifts

This by and large covers all about Ethical Promotion. Everything else may be in grey area. It is the responsibility of marketers to stay on track.


International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations represents research-based biopharmaceutical companies, and regional and national associations across the world. IFPMA was founded in 1968 and is based in Geneva.

“IFPMA manages global initiatives, including: Developing World Health Partnerships, which studies and identifies trends for the research-based pharmaceutical industry’s long-term partnership programs to improve health in developing countries; and the IFPMA Clinical Trials Portal, which helps patients and health professionals learn about ongoing clinical trials and trial results. In addition, the IFPMA Code of Practice sets standards for ethical promotion of medicines”.1

Following are some highlights of the IFPMA Code of Practice 20192.

  • The pharma industry is unlike any other. Its innovations can prolong and save lives. We hold ourselves to higher standards than other industries. We owe it to the patients who rely on our medicines. Patient trust is the lifeblood of our industry: we must take every opportunity to earn, sustain and grow that trust.
  • IFPMA2
  • The ethical promotion of prescription medicines is vital to the pharmaceutical industry’s mission of helping patients by discovering, developing and promoting new medicines.
  • Member companies’ relationships with HCPs and other stakeholders are intended to benefit patients and to enhance the practice of medicine. Interactions should be focused on informing HCPs about medicines, providing scientific and educational information and supporting medical research and education.
  • Respecting the requirement that promotion should be consistent with the label and approved uses locally,
  • Promotional information should be clear, legible, accurate, balanced, fair, and sufficiently complete to enable the recipient to form his or her own opinion of the therapeutic value of the pharmaceutical product concerned.
  • Promotion should be capable of substantiation either by reference to the approved labeling or by scientific evidence.
  • The purpose and focus of all symposia, congresses and other promotional, scientific or professional meetings (an “Event”) for HCPs organized or sponsored by a company should be to provide scientific or educational information and/or inform HCPs about products.
  • Member companies may sponsor HCPs to attend Events provided such sponsorship is in accordance with the following requirements:
    • The Event complies with the requirements in this Code as described in 7.1
    • Sponsorship to HCPs is limited to the payment of travel, meals, accommodation and registration fees;
    • No payments are made to compensate HCPs for time spent in attending the Event;
    • and Any sponsorship provided to individual HCPs must not be conditional upon an obligation to prescribe, recommend, purchase, supply, administer or promote any pharmaceutical product.
  • HCPs may be engaged as consultants and advisors for services such as speaking at and/or chairing meetings and events, involvement in medical/scientific studies, clinical trials or training services, participation at advisory board meetings, and participation in market research where such participation involves remuneration.
  • Gifts for the personal benefit (such as sporting or entertainment tickets, electronics items, social courtesy gifts, etc.) of HCPs (either directly or through clinics and institutions) are prohibited. Providing or offering cash, cash equivalents or personal services is also prohibited.
  • Promotional aids of minimal value and quantity may be provided or offered to HCPs solely for the promotion of over-the-counter medicines if relevant to the practice of the HCP.
  • Items of medical utility may be offered or provided by member companies if such items are of modest value, do not offset routine business practices and are beneficial to enhancing the provision of medical services and patient care.
  • The value of books and subscriptions must be reasonable. Other informational or educational items must be of modest value.
  • In accordance with local laws and regulations, free samples of a pharmaceutical product may be supplied to HCPs authorized to prescribe that product in order to enhance patient care. Samples should be marked as such so that they cannot be resold or otherwise misused.

If you wish to see the whole document, please follow the link below.




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