ABHI Release Guidelines on Adverts addressed solely to Healthcare Professionals
The rules make clear that any advertising directed at healthcare professionals must "conform to generally acceptable standards of good taste" and "should respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business". Members are also reminded that any advertising must comply with all other applicable laws and regulations.
Some key aspects of the new rules are:
- All information, claims and comparisons used in advertising must be accurate, balanced. fair, objective and unambiguous;
- All evidence presented should be scientifically robust, and must encourage the appropriate use of the device without exaggerating its properties;
- Where comparative claims are made there should be clear evidence to support such a claim, and should not simply be used as a means of denigrating a competitor's product;
- clear references must be given when any published studies are used; and
- if off-label use of a device is discussed, such discussion must not be used with the intention of promoting such off-label use.
There is also detailed guidance on the use of testimonials and endorsements:
- any testimonial or endorsement must be documented, genuine, not misleading and illustrate typical examples only (except where these are obviously fictitious);
- if a testimonial is presented by a person other than the person originally providing the testimonial (for example a celebrity) then the effect must not mislead or otherwise distort the nature of the testimonial;
- any payment provided to a person providing a testimonial must not be an inducement or reward for giving that statement, and reimbursement is limited to reasonable and proportionate expenses;
- if the provider of the testimonial is a healthcare professional then the written agreement must also comply with the requirements of Appendix 1 of the Code (Arrangements with Consultants).
Any complaints under the Code will be handled in accordance with the Complaints Procedure already in force at Appendix 4 to the Code, with companies expected to prove that they have made a genuine attempt at mediation to resolve the matter before any complaint is adjudicated. If a complaint is upheld under the new rules then the adjudicator can 'name and shame' the company responsible by way of publication of the case report
The new self-regulatory regime has been welcomed by the industry, and is expected to offer strong guidance whilst remaining flexible and adaptable in comparison to more legislative approaches. However its mere existence is evidence that the industry itself is becoming more regulated, which can present its own challenges.
For further information please contact Alison Dennis, Partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.
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