In many European countries and the UK, drug promotion is controlled by codes of practice managed by the pharmaceutical industry under a system known as self-regulation (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015). Self-regulation is often voluntary since the pharmaceutical industry is able to design and follow its own set of rules. The UK and Sweden are the two countries frequently praised for their effective self-regulation (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015).
One of the advantages of comparing the UK and Sweden is that these two countries have similar self-regulatory schemes (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015).Both countries are able to impose economic sanctions and publicise rulings on violating companies. This similarity allows the comparison of data and the extrapolation of findings; nevertheless, the findings from this study can be used as a basis for regulatory reform of international regulatory bodies (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015).
In this study, data was gathered on complaints, cases in breach, serious violations, and sanctions imposed on violating companies between 2004 and 2012.
Figure 2 – Flow diagram of complaints which led to cases in breach, serious cases, serious violations and finally, cases in diabetes drugs or urologic drugs between 2004 and 2012 (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015).
The number of complaints due to faulty drug promotion was very close in both countries; specifically, 933 complaints were registered in the UK and 916 in Sweden (see figure 2). It is worthy to note that both countries were registering more than one complaint per week due to improper drug promotion. Out...
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...se violations are too low. Evidently, the fines and charges incurred by pharmaceutical companies’ average about 0.014% (Sweden) and 0.005% (UK) of estimated yearly revenues (Mulinari, Merlo and Zetterqvist 2015). These regulations and consequences only serve the private interests in both the UK and Sweden. Furthermore, charges in the UK and Sweden should not be designed to damage corporations financially; nevertheless, the fines need to serve as a deterrent to unethical behaviour which can impact prescribing practices of medical professionals. Also, as a last measure, regulators should consider using non-economic measures such as publications which can lead to damaging the reputation of the pharmaceutical company. Contrary to popular belief, self-regulation at many times can serve the private interest of corporations as there are no barriers or consequences to error.
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