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ABPI suspends Roche

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has suspended Roche Pharma UK from membership of the organisation for a minimum period of six months
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has suspended Roche Pharma UK from membership of the organisation for a minimum period of six months for serious breaches of the ABPI Code of Practice.

According to the ABPI, the suspension is a result of Roche's actions between 2003 and 2005 held to be in breach of the Code, including cause 2, which deals with conduct likely to bring discredit, or reduce confidence in, the UK pharmaceutical industry.

"The highest possible ethical standards are required by the pharmaceutical industry in all its activities," said Chris Brinsmead, president of the ABPI. "Breaches of the Code are viewed seriously and this is reflected by the suspension."

A former Roche employee made a complaint in relation to an article, which appeared in the Financial Times on February 12, 2008, that alleged the company had sold large quantities of Xenical, a prescription obesity drug, to an operator of private diet clinics. It was also alleged that Roche agreed to give the operator £55,000 to buy another clinic.

The Code of Practice Panel of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) - a separate body that administers the ABPI Code of Practice - ruled the supply of Xenical was inappropriate. Roche appealed the decision but the PMCPA appeal board upheld the original ruling, and said the supply of the obesity medicine could have been prejudicial to patient safety. It also found that funding for the operator to buy another clinic was a breach of the Code.

Roche, which expressed its regret for breaches of the Code, said: "We are committed to complying with the Code of Practice and it is disappointing that we have fallen short."

The PMCPA recommended that the ABPI publicly reprimand the company and suspend its membership for six-months. Roche will have to undergo an audit of its procedures before it can re-enter the ABPI board.

Roche said that since the rulings were made, it has taken action to ensure that similar breaches do not recur such as creating a dedicated compliance department, conducting an internal review of processes and standard operating procedures. The company is also rolling out staff training to educate employees about the ABPI Code of Practice.

14th July 2008

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