February 28, 2006

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) recently suspended Abbott Laboratories' membership in the group for a minimum of six months for "serious violations" of its ethics code.

The ABPI suspended the company for "inappropriate hospitality for health professionals." The incident involved Abbott drug sales representatives paying for adult entertainment activities, according to British press reports. These activities violated the group's "Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority" -- specifically Clause 2, which deals with actions "likely to bring discredit on, or reduce confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry," the ABPI said.

The activities took place in 2004, with an anonymous complaint filed with the ABPI the following year. While the ABPI's Board of Management agreed to the suspension, it acknowledged that Abbott was taking action to avoid recurrence of the violations.

The suspension underscores the seriousness of the violation, with the suspension being the first of its kind in several years, ABPI says.

"The pharmaceutical industry strives to maintain the highest possible ethical standards in all its dealings with healthcare professionals," said Vincent Lawton, the ABPI's president. "The breaches that have been identified are viewed in a very serious light, and this is reflected in the suspension -- a sanction that we have not needed to apply for many years."

However, it is reassuring to note that Abbott also "recognizes the seriousness of the breaches, and has taken action to prevent their recurrence," said Lawton.