An NHS clinical commissioning group employee complained that a Sanofi representative had persuaded an NHS employee to send, on his/her behalf, a promotional email via the NHS.net system to all GP practices in the area. The email invited recipients to view a Sanofi promotional webcast.
The detailed response from Sanofi is given below.
The Panel noted that the email sent by the administrative assistant on behalf of the Sanofi representative had a subject heading of ‘FW:Sanofi GLP-1 Webcast’. The email itself was headed ‘Sent on behalf of [named representative] – Sanofi’ ‘Practice Managers- please cascade’. The email, signed by the representative as a ‘Diabetes Specialist’ (although the company was not stated), was an invitation to a webcast entitled ‘The Use of GLP-1 receptor agonist therapies, the evidence and practicalities’. In the Panel’s view it was not clear from the email that the webcast was promotional or that it had been solely produced by Sanofi. The email was sent via the NHS.net system and stated that ‘We are holding a webcast entitled….’. It could be argued that the impression given was that the meeting was an NHS-led meeting with sponsorship from Sanofi and not a Sanofi-led promotional meeting. The Panel noted that although the email did not refer to the meeting as an NHS meeting, it was likely to appear to recipients that the NHS trust endorsed the meeting as it had been sent from an NHS employee who regularly sent out details of workshops and courses that the local community healthcare trust had organised. It was only on clicking the registration link that the promotional nature of, and Sanofi’s involvement with, the webcast was made clear. The Panel considered that the invitation disguised the promotional nature of the webcast and in that regard a breach of the Code was ruled. The Panel also ruled a breach of the Code as acknowledged by Sanofi as prior permission to send the promotional email had not been obtained from those who received it.
The Panel noted that by sending the email in question, the representative had, in effect, created and distributed his/her own promotional material; the email had not been certified prior to use in accordance with the Code. The Panel considered that the representative had thus failed to maintain high standards. A breach of the Code was ruled.
The Panel noted that the representative had persuaded an NHS administrative assistant to widely distribute an email on his/her behalf. The Panel considered that this was a serious breach of professionalism and that in doing so the representative had failed to maintain a high standard of ethical conduct. The representative had also failed to comply with all the relevant requirements of the Code. A breach of the Code was ruled as acknowledged by Sanofi.
The Panel considered that the representative’s conduct was such as to bring discredit upon and reduce confidence in the pharmaceutical industry. A breach of Clause 2 was ruled.