Pharma companies failing to abide by 'the rules' in UK and Sweden
Unethical marketing of pharmaceutical drugs happens more than once a week in both the UK and Sweden, according to a new report from Lund University.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, investigated judgments from the self-regulation bodies in the UK and Sweden over the years 2004 to 2012. The study revealed 597 and 536 cases respectively of marketing that violated the industry’s own regulations.
Over half of cases related to misleading marketing. For instance, claims made about drugs were found to lack medical evidence. In other cases, the violation concerned marketing of prescription medications, which is prohibited in the EU.
In 20% of cases, the violation of the regulations was judged to be severe.
“There is clearly a discrepancy between the ethical rules and what companies are actually doing”, said Shai Mulinari, a researcher in both social sciences and medicine who led the study.
Unethical advertising does lead to fines, but the sums are very low in proportion to the pharmaceutical industry’s revenue: 0.01% of annual sales in Sweden and 0.005% in the UK.
Dr Mulinari believes that higher fines and more publicity of the judgments could serve as an incentive to the pharmaceutical industry to improve its behaviour.