As a global biopharmaceutical company, we market our medicines worldwide to doctors and other healthcare professionals, and to those who pay for healthcare.
We know that the marketing of pharmaceuticals sometimes raises some public concerns. In particular, our stakeholders and society in general want to be confident that pharmaceutical marketing practices do not compromise the ability of healthcare professionals to independently care for their patients.
Delivering consistently high standards of sales and marketing practice is one of our top priorities and sits at the core of our commitment to driving commercial success responsibly. Our activities centre on making sure that the appropriate information is provided to those who need it to support the safe and effective use of our medicines and enhance patient care.
A global approach
Our Global Ethical Interactions Policy provides a single common, principle-based approach to all our interactions with public officials, healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations, and community organisations worldwide. This means that everyone in AstraZeneca, wherever they are located, is required to work to our global standards of ethical sales and marketing practice.
We have comprehensive processes in place to identify breaches of our Policy. We take all breaches very seriously and act to prevent them from happening again. This includes retraining or other corrective action, up to and including dismissal. Read more.
Our Global Policy on Ethical Interactions provides a single common, principle-based approach to all our interactions with public officials, healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations, community organisations, and other third parties worldwide.
In particular, our standards are designed to make sure that across all our activities with healthcare professionals, our focus is solely on providing them with evidence-based, reliable information about our medicines. We are concentrating our efforts on local educational opportunities and digital channels of communication, which facilitate the flow of information and support high standards of medical education. These approaches are designed to provide a collaborative environment where doctors can benefit from interactions with their peer group, including virtual seminars and conferences, and facilitation of local physician networks.
We know that opportunities for medical education and scientific exchange with peers are crucial to supporting improvements in patient care delivered by doctors. We are satisfied that in some limited circumstances we can contribute to high-quality scientific discourse by supporting doctors to attend educational meetings and conferences without compromising our commitment to integrity and we have robust controls in place to make sure that any such support is provided in a lawful and ethical manner.
Marketing to healthcare professionals
Our marketing efforts are directed towards doctors, other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants) and to those who pay for healthcare, including governments. We use a range of different ways to provide these groups with the information they need to make fully informed decisions. These include face-to-face contact and, to drive efficiency and effectiveness for our customers and for our business, the use of telephone sales teams and dedicated customer staff. Alongside this, we are also making more use of the internet and other digital channels to share information.
Payments to Doctors
Yes, but these are strictly controlled and limited to healthcare professionals who undertake specific, contracted services for AstraZeneca. These services include:
- Speaking at, chairing or moderating scientific, promotional or educational meetings.
- Providing specific consultancy services and advice.
- Running training events for our sales representatives and other employees to help them understand the science behind, and the impact that diseases have on patients’ lives.
All payments must be based on fair market value and reflect the time needed for preparation and performance of the service. Our Global Policy requires that payments made to doctors and other healthcare professionals are formally approved and tracked to ensure that excessive single or collective payments are not being made to individuals. In some countries, including the US, we have set a limit on the fees a doctor can receive for speaker and other consulting services per year. We continue to look at ways to improve the consistency and extend the reach of our data collection in this area, and increase public transparency of this data.
Do you pay travel and accommodation expenses for doctors attending your events?
In some limited circumstances, we support doctors with travel and accommodation to enable them to attend company organised promotional meetings. These circumstances exist during the launch period of a new product, or when there is significant new use of a product, where there is a genuine educational need for extended face-to-face interactions. Meeting venues and meals provided must be modest. We have embedded robust controls in our process for supporting travel and accommodation to ensure that it is only provided in a lawful and ethical manner that is consistent with our commitment to integrity.
Do you provide gifts to doctors?
Our Policy only allows for modest gifts to be given to healthcare professionals as expressions of sympathy in the case of bereavement or series illness. In exceptional circumstances, where the absence of a gift is against the cultural norm and may be potentially offensive, modest value cultural courtesy gifts may be provided with executive management approval. We also allow modest items of medical use (such as anatomical models) and relevant medical literature to be provided to individual healthcare professionals.
Do you allow off-label promotion of unlicensed products or uses?
No. Off-label promotion (the marketing of medicines for other uses or for the treatment of patient groups not specified in the prescribing information) is illegal and prohibited by our policies.
Our medicines are approved by regulatory authorities for the treatment or prevention of disease only after rigorous testing has demonstrated an acceptable benefit/risk profile. You can read more about this in the Patient Safety section. We do not promote a medicine before it has been granted a marketing authorisation. The approved uses are specified in the prescribing information for each medicine.
Doctors may decide that it is the best interests of their patient to prescribe a medicine for an unlicensed use. Off-label prescribing is the doctor’s decision, based on his or her independent clinical opinion as to what is right for the patient. This sometimes leads to doctors making unprompted requests to us for off-label information.
Our codes require such enquiries to be referred by our representatives to the appropriate AstraZeneca medical department who can provide relevant non-promotional material to the doctor. Our codes also require that such material provided to the doctor clearly states that the use is not registered and that AstraZeneca does not recommend usage outside the approved indications.