The Medicines Australia Code of Conduct guides the promotion of prescription products by pharmaceutical companies.1 Each year Medicines Australia publishes a report, from its Code of Conduct Committee, which details all the complaints that have been received about advertising and other promotional activities.

There were 18 new complaints and 10 of these were considered and finalised by the Code of Conduct Committee in 2012–13. It could not consider one complaint because it was about a company which was not a member of Medicines Australia.

Only three complaints were made by health professionals. The majority of complaints came from rival pharmaceutical companies.

The Table shows the complaints where at least one breach was identified, and more details can be found in the full report.2 One complaint was held over from 2011–12. The manufacturer of atorvastatin wanted to inform patients that its brand was still available after the arrival of generic competition. However this 'community service announcement' was ruled to be promoting the product to the general public, resulting in a $50 000 fine.

Breaches of the Code of Conduct July 2012 – June 2013

The largest fine this year also involved a complaint about providing information to the public. An educational booklet about multiple sclerosis provided unbalanced information which could encourage patients to seek a prescription for a specific product.

Another company was questioned about its use of social media to interact with the public. The Code of Conduct Committee recognised that material that is linked by someone else to information provided by a company could be promoting the drug. It agreed that the Code applies to social media. Although the company was not found to have promoted the drug to the public, other elements of its marketing were found to be false or misleading.

The Monitoring Committee of Medicines Australia reviewed over 10 000 educational events organised by 36 companies in 2011–12. None of these were referred to the Code of Conduct Committee.