ABPI calls in Santé to promote ‘strict’ code

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has made the unprecedented move of hiring a PR agency to promote its code of practice.

Santé Communications will handle a 'multi-faceted' campaign targeting all industry stakeholders from April. This is the first time the ABPI has used an agency to promote the code – a revised version of which it unveiled two months ago (PRWeek, 18 Nov 2005).

It is an indication of how keen the pharma industry is to clamp down, and be seen to be clamping down, on inappropriate marketing.

More broadly, the campaign is an attempt by the drugs industry to help turn around a reputation sullied by well-chronicled scandals, by pointing out the extent to which it is regulated.  

Santé MD Liz Shanahan said: 'The industry is often perceived by media and clinical communities to be an aggressive oligarch; in our experience that is not the case.'

She added: 'The extent of approval required for the shortest press releases might shock those outside the industry.  It's refreshing to see the industry plans to promote how tightly regulated it is.'

Santé will target staff at ABPI member companies, plus medics, patient groups – and even other PR agencies – to boost awareness of the new code, which came into effect on 1 January.

The ABPI believes measures such as greater restrictions on hospitality freebies and a requirement of greater clarity in drugs firms' relations with patient groups will most affect PROs. Although the code has existed since 1958, ABPI research has showed that many stakeholders are unaware of it.

ABPI director of PA Ben Hayes said: 'Nothing less than the highest ethical standards will be acceptable.'

The ABPI continues to use Weber Shandwick and Consolidated Communications for PA in continental Europe and the UK respectively. It also uses other agencies on projects.

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