Frequently asked questions about the ABPI Code of Practice
For information about how the PMCPA administers the Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry see our Annual Report.
See Guidance and Q&As for specific questions about the clauses of the Code.
Why does the pharmaceutical industry need to promote medicines to health professionals?
The industry promotes medicines to health professionals to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest treatments available for patients. The availability of accurate, up-to-date information is vital to the appropriate use of medicines.
The Code recognises this and seeks to achieve a balance between the needs of patients, health professionals and the public, bearing in mind the political and social environment within which the industry operates and the statutory controls governing medicines. The Code exists to help ensure that pharmaceutical companies operate in a responsible, ethical and professional manner when promoting medicines. It also sets standards in relation to non promotional activities.
Does the industry abide by the Code?
Strong support is given to the Code by the industry with all companies devoting considerable time and resources to ensuring that their activities comply with it. Any complaint made against a company under the Code is regarded as a serious matter both by that company and the industry as a whole.
Companies must have robust standard operating procedures under which all materials and activities covered by the Code are reviewed to ensure compliance both within the Code and with the appropriate legal procedures. All relevant personnel within companies must also be appropriately trained in the requirements of the Code.
What does the PMCPA do to ensure the industry and others understand the Code?
One of the roles of the PMCPA is to provide advice, guidance and training on the Code. The PMCPA training seminars on the Code are held in central London and training can also be arranged in-house.
There is a free online module specially designed for health professionals, but can be used by others who are interested in the Code (it is currently being updated, and will be available on this website shortly).
The Code of Practice Review is published four times a year with details of completed cases and updates on activities.
The PMCPA communicates to increase awareness of the Code amongst a wide audience.
PMCPA staff spend time talking to and presenting at meetings for health professionals, pharmaceutical company staff and other stakeholders about the Code and its operation.
Informal advice on the Code is also available from the PMCPA to anyone either within, or outside, the pharmaceutical industry.
For full information about what the PMCPA does and how we do it see our Annual Report.
We have recently revamped our website to make it easier to use and quicker to find information. This was done in consultation with colleagues and stakeholder who regularly use it.
Where can I get advice on the Code?
More information can be found in the Advice section. The PMCPA can also provide informal guidance.
Can health professionals and others outside the industry be held to account for not acting ethically?
The Code only covers the industry’s activities. However, those interacting with industry as individuals or organisations also have a responsibility to ensure that their interactions comply with relevant legal requirements and are asked to follow the ABPI Code where relevant and not make requests that are not in accordance with the Code. Most of those interacting with the industry are also covered by a selection of professionals codes and guidance.
For example, health professionals are covered by:
- The General Medical Council guidance, Good Medical Practice.
- General Pharmaceutical Council 'Standards of conduct, ethics and performance.'
- Nursing and Midwifery Council, Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives.'
Patient organisations are likely to be covered by Charity Commission rules as well as their own codes. The pharmaceutical industry is encouraged to take into account all relevant codes and guidance as well as the ABPI Code.
- How do I get a copy of the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry?