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Shire website breaches UK pharma code

But healthcare professional section of vpriv.co.uk cleared of breaking marketing rules

Shire Vpriv UK website

A website produced by Shire to provide UK patients and healthcare professionals with information on its Gaucher disease drug Vpriv has fallen foul of pharma industry rules.

The site, www.vpriv.co.uk, was responsible for four breaches of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) Code of Practice after Shire's rival Genzyme complained about it.

But a complaint that Shire had not followed digital marketing rules, in the process making information on prescription-only medicines available online to the general public, was thrown out.

One of the ABPI Code's lessor known rules allows UK pharma companies to run 'brandname.com' websites to provide different types of information to patients and healthcare professionals.

In the US such sites are synonymous with direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, something strictly prohibited in the UK and the rest of Europe, so UK versions of these sites need clearly differentiated sections for their two different audiences.

In this case Code regulator the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) said Shire's Vpriv website achieved this and consequently did not breach clause 24.1 of the Code.

In its report on the complaint, published in the February 2012 Code of Practice Review, the PMCPA noted Genzyme “strongly believed that patients should have access to reliable, balanced and clear information about their disease and treatment”.

But, the PMCPA said, the company had argued Shire's website “allowed easy access to all promotional claims, including those which Genzyme considered to be disparaging, inaccurate and unsubstantiated”.

Shire said it was “particularly dismayed” by this last part of the complaint and considered Genzyme to be “time wasting”, according to the PMCPA report.
Genzyme markets its own Gaucher disease drug Cerezyme which, like Vpriv, is an enzyme replacement therapy.

The rule breaches, which came under clauses 7.2 and 7.3 of the Code, concerned claims made on the site about Vpriv's efficacy, manufacturing process and components.

23rd April 2012

From: Marketing

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