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. The Table shows the complaints where at least one breach was identified, and more details can be found in the full report.2 The complaints were dealt with under the current (18th) edition of the Code of Conduct.1

Table - Breaches of the Code of Conduct July 2015 – June 2016


Brand (generic) name

Material or activity


Bristol-Myers Squibb

Sprycel (dasatinib)

Misleading promotional material

$50 000 fine, material withdrawn

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Opdivo (nivolumab)

Unregistered product, company commissioned article

$10 000 fine


Zytiga (abiraterone)

Misleading promotional claims

$100 000 fine, material withdrawn, corrective letter to specialists

Merck Serono

Not applicable

Excessive hospitality

$10 000 fine

Roche Products

Gazyva (obinutuzumab)

Inappropriate interaction with consumer media

$100 000 fine

Servier Laboratories

Valdoxan (agomelatine)

Misleading advertising

$100 000 fine, material withdrawn

The number of companies found to have breached the Code of Conduct is small compared to all the promotional activity undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry. Most of the complaints came from competitors or Medicines Australia’s own Monitoring Committee. Only the complaint about the advertising of agomelatine came from a health professional. This case hinged on the references used to support the claims in the advertisement.

There was an appeal against the Code of Conduct Committee’s decision in the abiraterone case. This  included discussion of the definition of ‘energy’ in three different dictionaries.

The Monitoring Committee considered that a two-course lunch for two specialists was inappropriate. The price of the meal was $153.86, but it cost the company $10,000 in fines.