Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > Under Fire, Abbott Suspends Marketing Program in India

Under Fire, Abbott Suspends Marketing Program in India

Posted 17 October 2012 | By

Officials with Abbott Laboratories have announced the suspension of a controversial policy that has stoked controversy with critics who claim the company is buying favors from prescribing physicians by lavishing them with valuable gifts, reports Reuters.

In an email obtained by the news organization, Abbott Healthcare, a subsidiary of its North American counterpart, said it would henceforth only distribute approved literature to prescribing physicians.

"No brand reminders or therapy reminders in your possession should be given to any current and potential customer and no further brand reminders or therapy reminders should be ordered," Managing Director Sudarshan Jain wrote in the email.

Despite the innocuous-sounding term, "brand reminders" refers to non-low value gifts such as toasters and other appliances. Though it is illegal for doctors to receive gifts from pharmaceutical companies, Reuters notes the rule is inconsistently enforced and has led to charges of conflicts of interest being leveled against both physicians and the pharmaceutical industry. Therapy reminders refer to low-value objects, such as pens or branded pads of paper.

The actions could place unwanted attention on Abbott Laboratories, notes Reuters. Other companies, such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, have separately found themselves the target of investigations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans illegal kickbacks and bribes to obtain business in other countries.

Abbott representatives told Reuters they were not aware of any investigation into its actions by US regulators, but had decided to "suspend" the program until further notice and review. 

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