Posted 22 March 2016
By Zachary Brennan
The UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on Tuesday said that it shut down a scheme whereby independent pharmacists would accumulate personal spending money based on the sales of certain medicines.
The regulator said the Bloc Group Limited’s proposed promotional scheme for healthcare professionals was brought to the attention of MHRA.
“Independent pharmacies were offered points on the purchase of medicines. These points accumulated on a card and were available for personal spending by the cardholder,” MHRA said, noting that the scheme breached regulation 300(1) of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. The Bloc Group Limited decided to cease trading with immediate effect.
In describing how the scheme breached the regulation, MHRA said the law provides that “a person may not, in connection with the promotion of medicinal products to persons qualified to prescribe or supply them, supply, offer or promise to such persons any gift, pecuniary advantage or benefit unless it is- (a) inexpensive; and (b) relevant to the practice of medicine or pharmacy.”
A promotional scheme that offers personal benefits based on purchases of medicines would be prohibited under the regulations, MHRA added.
It is also an offense under UK regulation 300(4) for a healthcare professional to “accept any gift, pecuniary advantage, benefit or hospitality that is prohibited by this regulation,” MHRA said, though it did not go into detail about what medicines and pharmacies were involved in this particular scheme.
The Bloc Group did not respond to a request for comment.
The revelation of the scheme comes as pharmaceutical companies have had to settle lawsuits in the US because of kickback schemes.
In November 2015, Novartis agreed to pay $390 million to settle illegal kickbacks paid to specialty pharmacies between 2007 and 2012.
Abbott and Amgen also settled kickback allegations in 2012.
Bloc Group Limited promotional scheme to healthcare professionals