AUTH/3186/5/19 - Anonymous v Almirall

Arrangements for a meeting

  • Received
    01 May 2019
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    20 August 2019
  • No breach Clause(s)
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal
  • Review
    Published in the May 2020 Review

Case Summary

An anonymous, non-contactable ex-employee complained about the arrangements for a meeting, ‘Psoriasis Management of Patients Over Time – PsoMOT’, organised by Almirall Spain to which UK doctors were invited to attend.

The complainant alleged that Almirall UK selected and invited UK doctors to attend the lavish meeting in Berlin on Friday, 26 October 2018 based on their prescribing of Almirall products.

The meeting was attended by Almirall UK representatives and on Friday, 26 October guests flew in for a lavish dinner.  There was no educational content on that day as per the invite.

On Saturday, 27 October there was a number of promotional presentations on Almirall’s product from various paid speakers as per the agenda.  In the evening a second lavish dinner with a music band and cabaret dancers was held at a named venue.

On Sunday there were more presentations on the company’s product and the meeting finished at noon.  A three course sit down lunch was provided.

The detailed response from Almirall is given below.

The Panel noted that there was no evidence that the UK invitees were chosen on the basis of their prescribing of Almirall products.  The briefing to the representatives set out the criteria and the nominations were reviewed by senior employees in marketing and medical.  The Panel did not consider that the complainant had provided evidence to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that the prescribing of Almirall products was the reason for inviting the health professionals.  Thus, no breach of the Code was ruled. 

In relation to the allegations about the hospitality, the Panel noted that the limits in the host country code would apply.  The limit in the German Code was €60 per meal including VAT. 

According to the agenda for the meeting as provided by Almirall, it started at 08.15 on Saturday, 27 October and finished at 16.30 with 30 minutes for a morning coffee break and 90 minutes for lunch.  The agenda for Sunday, 28 October started at 09.00 where delegates could choose to attend two sessions of parallel workshops followed by 30 minutes conclusion and wrap up finishing the meeting at 11.30.  There was no mention on the agenda of the dinners on the Friday and Saturday evenings, nor of the lunch on the Sunday.  The meeting schedule provided by the complainant had more detail about the arrangements including those for the dinners on Friday and Saturday and the lunch on Sunday.

The various groups had dinner by country at different restaurants on the Friday evening and all the delegates had dinner together on the Saturday evening, siting in country groups. 

The Panel noted that the cost of the meal on the Friday evening for UK delegates including drinks and taxes was within the limits of the German Code requirements as was cost of the dinner on the Saturday evening. 

There was no agenda, presentations nor educational content provided on the Friday as alleged.  The Panel considered that it was not necessarily unacceptable to offer subsistence to delegates who had arrived the day prior to the meeting.  The Panel noted that a buffet lunch was offered on the Sunday.  The Panel queried whether the arrangements for the lunch on the Sunday were appropriate noting that it was served 30 minutes after the end of the meeting and cost €42.35 per person including alcohol.  In the Panel’s view, this was on the limits of acceptability. 

The Panel noted Almirall’s submission for the arrangements for the dinner on the Saturday evening.  It was held in the venue mentioned by the complainant, however, Almirall submitted that the room had been laid out very differently and there was no music or cabaret dancers contrary to the photographs provided by the complainant.  The company submitted that no entertainment was provided and that the photographs provided by the complainant were from another event at the venue on a different date.  The Panel did not consider that the complainant had provided evidence to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that entertainment other than food and drink was provided. 

The Panel considered that it was important for a company to be mindful of the impression created by its activities.  Taking all the circumstances into account the Panel did not consider that the hospitality on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday was, on balance, unreasonable.  The Panel ruled no breach of the Code.

The Panel noted its rulings and the lack of evidence.  The complainant had not shown that high standards had not been maintained.  The Panel ruled no breaches of the Code including no breach of Clause 2.