Frozen yoghurt at congress lands Mylan in hot water

Mylan has been ruled in breach of the UK pharma industry Code of Conduct after it served up frozen yoghurt at a medical congress in London.

The generics and specialist pharma company has been ruled in breach of the rules after an anonymous individual made a complaint about Mylan’s stand at the 2015 conference.

Recent years have seen the UK’s ABPI Code becoming stricter and stricter, with branded stationery freebies now banned. The Code even states that companies are not allowed to induce or entice delegates to visit their stands- however it’s clear there is a low-key but very real competition to find inventive but otherwise Code-compliant ways to attract people to stands.

In this case, Mylan was judged to have gone too far with its frozen yoghurt hand-outs. Watchdog the PMCPA ruling it contravened Clause 22.1 of the Code, which outlaws lavish or inappropriate hospitality.

Because of the poor impression this left, the PMCPA ruled that Mylan had also breached Clause 9.1, a serious charge which relates to high standards being maintained at all times.

The complainant informed the PMCPA that Mylan’s stand was “extremely extravagant and in poor taste considering today’s economic climate.” The individual, who could not be subsequently contacted by the PMCPA, alleged that Mylan was handing out free ice cream to delegates, including healthcare professionals.

Mylan clarified that it was in fact frozen yoghurt, not ice cream being handed out, but was nevertheless found in breach of the code.

The individual added that “that there was a real party atmosphere rather than a true scientific congress atmosphere which he/she expected in such stands”.

However the more general allegation about Mylan having an ‘extremely extravagant’ stand were not upheld, the PMCPA ruling there was insufficient evidence to substantiate this claim.

Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim cleared

The complainant had also made a general allegation that the majority of the stands at the congress were extravagant.

Pfizer was named in particular reference to this complaint, and the anonymous individual also made several claims about representatives on the Boehringer Ingelheim stand. These included that the Boehringer employees had breached rules banning promotion of off-label uses for drugs.

Both Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim were cleared of any wrongdoing however, and the panel was not able to rule on the broader complaint about the general atmosphere of the congress stands.

So what kind of food and drink should companies steer clear of? The PMCPA says the provision of hospitality at scientific meetings should be ‘subsistence only’ and not a way ‘to induce a delegate to visit the stand’. This means nothing more than drinks such as tea, coffee and water, and ‘very limited quantities of sweets, biscuits or fruit’.

Pfizer’s stand included coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chai latte, flavoured iced drinks and iced coffee as well as some chocolates. The watchdog said this selection was ‘on the limits of acceptability’ but overall its panel ruled that ‘no breach’ had been made by the company.

Finally the PMCPA does offer some clues to foodstuffs which are just too luxurious and frivolous for any scientific congress or meeting: “hot dogs, ice-cream, waffles, etc”.

Read the full PMCPA ruling on Mylan here

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