GSK investigated over its material aimed at children

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) this week pulled promotional photographs of the children’s allergy information booklet it had paid for after government regulators confirmed they were investigating the marketing tactic.

A spokeswoman for Biss Lancaster Euro RSCG, which has managed GSK’s medical and consumer PR since last year (PRWeek, 15 February 2002), said the company had instructed the agency to stop distributing images of the information pack it produced with the charity Allergy UK.

She added the company felt that it was getting too much negative media attention after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed it was investigating the free copy of Mr Sneeze and his allergies contained in the information pack.

An MHRA spokeswoman said the contents of the pack were brought to its attention on Monday and that it was investigating whether the booklet, which contains a six-page section on GSK products

Piriton and Piriteze, breached rules that prohibit marketing to children.

The Consumers’ Association’s principal policy adviser Wendy Garlick questioned whether many parents would follow the covering letter’s advice before distributing the Mr Sneeze booklet and the information value of the material. ‘We realise that people need information, but how can this be truly educational if it only mentions GlaxoSmithKline products,’ she said.

A spokeswoman for GSK’s consumer healthcare division said the information pack was originally distributed three years ago and contained a covering letter to parents telling them to detach the section on the company’s products before giving it to children.

She also added that the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the pharmaceutical trade body that checks marketing material for over-the-counter products, had vetted the pack before its distribution and that the drug company felt ‘100 per cent justified’ in its involvement in producing the information.

Lucy Rochford, the PAGB’s advertising services manager, said that while the MHRA had every right to investigate the products and information her organisation vetted, the regulator’s move was unusual. She said: ‘This kind of booklet is a very good resource in terms of health

education, and we always check this information before it goes to print.

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