Pharmaceutical marketing: a question of regulation
In recent years, the marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry have been subject to scrutiny and criticism. In the UK, prescription-only (PO) medicines cannot be marketed directly to the public, and marketing to health professionals is self-regulated by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) Code of Practice. This study uses internal document analyses to examine the effectiveness of this regulatory framework. Specifically, a qualitative analysis was conducted of internal marketing documents from five UK pharmaceutical companies which were obtained by the House of Commons Health Committee. This analysis suggests that major pharmaceutical companies are contravening the ABPI Code in four key areas. The authors conclude that the current system is not effectively regulating the marketing of PO medicines to the general public or health professionals in the UK and suggest that the Code and indeed the whole regulatory procedure needs a thorough review.