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Pharma facing EU challenge over promotional products ban

Manufacturers of USB sticks, sticky notes and pens complain to the European Commission

USB syringeManufacturers of promotional goods such as USB sticks, sticky notes and pens have complained to the European Commission about the pharma industry's decision to ban the products from January 1, 2014.

The European Promotional Product Association (EPPA) may even resort to a legal challenge to the move by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), according to a Financial Times report.

EFPIA's plans to axe the use of promotional items have been discussed for some time, but were ratified at its general assembly last month, at which it voted in a number of amendments to its healthcare professionals (HCP) code of practice including a full disclosure policy.

That prompted the EPPA to refer the decision to EU authorities to establish whether the move is illegal under competition law, and it reached the preliminary conclusion that it conflicts with Art. 101 (1) of the Treaty On The Functioning Of The European Union (TFEU, which prohibits agreements, concerted practices or decisions by industry associations that have the object or effect of restricting competition.

EFPIA has been working hard to restore public confidence in the pharma industry, which has seen its reputation tainted amid accusations of a lack of transparency on clinical data, improper marketing tactics and unfair pricing policies according to a recent poll of patient groups.

New rules on payments to doctors and other HCPs are also coming into force that prohibit gifts or benefits in kind and set strict limits on the amount that can be spent on meals and drinks. The ban on promotional products is one more element of this public relations campaign, with EFPIA now only allowing informational or educational items or "items of medical utility" that are "inexpensive". 

EPPA and other national promotional products associations such as Germany's GWW are arguing that the prohibition on pens and other items goes too far and that distributing logo-laden pens does not have an impact on prescribing decisions.

Somewhat counter-intuitively however the promotional products sector also trumpets the effectiveness of its approach, with the GWW saying that a 2012 survey showed that 57 per cent of recipients of a promotional item remember the name of the brand or company that provided it and 90 per cent made use of the item.

4th July 2013

From: Marketing

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