AUTH/2470/1/12 - Anonymous v Novo Nordisk
Case Number: AUTH/2470/1/12
Case Ref: Anonymous v Novo Nordisk
Description: Arrangements for a meeting
Breach: Breaches Clauses 15.2 and 19.1
Appeal: Appeal by respondent
Review: Published in the May 2012 Review
Complaint Received: 03 January 2012
Complaint Completed: 14 May 2012
An anonymous, non-contactable, health professional alleged that in mid December 2011 Novo Nordisk and Sanofi (see Case AUTH/2471/1/12) had paid for what was clearly a Christmas party for the clinicians, nurses and administrative staff of the local diabetes team.
The evening meeting, which was at a local restaurant, was organised between the clinical lead consultant and the representatives involved.
The complainant stated that the supposed agenda did not materialise, that there was a partition to supposedly separate representative stands and that a representative from another company arrived but then left.
The detailed response from Novo Nordisk is given below.
The Panel noted that Novo Nordisk described the event as an evening hospital departmental meeting to launch the inpatient diabetes service and discuss plans for the future of the local diabetes service.
The Panel noted Novo Nordisk’s submission that the representative agreed to sponsor the meeting organised by the clinical lead for diabetes subject to the venue being appropriate and seeing the agenda. The representative had not influenced the agenda or selection of speakers. Nonetheless the Panel considered that companies sponsoring meetings organised by a third party had to satisfy themselves that all of the arrangements, including the venue and invitation, complied with the Code.
The Panel was very concerned that three emails between the representative and meeting organiser, dated 15 and 16 November, were the sole written correspondence about the event. The first email was an invitation from the meeting organiser to departmental staff and bore the subject title ‘FW: Christmas at [named restaurant] 15th of December’. The first paragraph referred to previous correspondence and positive responses and confirmed the date of the ‘Xmas meal’ at the restaurant. The event was described as an opportunity to catch up and ‘develop trust, hope and most importantly happiness across our units’. There was a brief outline of the proposed agenda and then the penultimate paragraph read ‘The meal: 07.30 [sic] – late’. The invitation appeared to have then been forwarded in a second email, sent six minutes later and also with the subject title ‘FW: Christmas at [named restaurant] 15th of December’, from the meeting organiser to the representative which listed four meeting topics and asked the representative if she would like five minutes. It was unclear whether the representative saw the final agenda which differed from that described in the email prior to theevent. In the third email the representative stated that the agenda looked good and reminded the organiser that there needed to be a private meeting room and 1½ hours of presentation and discussion to comply with the Code. The representative explained that she could pay for wine, beer and soft drinks in moderation but that spirits would have to be paid for individually.
The Panel noted that whilst it had not seen all of the correspondence between the meeting organiser and his colleagues it considered that the email invitation dated 15 November implied that the meeting was primarily a social event. It was described as a Xmas meal which finished late in the evening. This would certainly be the impression given to invitees. This was compounded by the fact that it was an evening event in a restaurant ten days before Christmas. In the Panel’s view it was difficult to understand why the company decided that it was an appropriate meeting to sponsor given the unacceptable wording of the invitation.
The Panel noted that, according to the agenda, the meeting began at 7pm, featured two short presentations and finished with a question and answer session at 7.50pm. The six slides presented by one of the consultants detailed his background, clinical interests and reasons for moving to the area. The Panel queried the educational content of the presentation and whether this was a suitable presentation for the industry to sponsor. According to Novo Nordisk, due to a late start at 7.20pm, the session finished at 8.40pm and discussions continued over dinner.
The Panel noted that the restaurant did not charge room hire. The representative had visited the restaurant prior to the event to satisfy herself that the arrangements were acceptable. The Panel noted that whilst Novo Nordisk’s description of the layout and floor plan sketch indicated a degree of separation between the public part of the restaurant and the meeting, the arrangements were not such as to constitute a private room and the Panel queried whether in that regard the arrangements were acceptable and noted that according to Novo Nordisk, a representative from a third company had departed shortly after arrival due to concerns that the meeting room did not have a door. A similar comment was made by the complainant.
The total cost per head for the evening, to include drinks, was £32.81. Novo Nordisk paid £450 and the credit card receipt showed that the bill was paid at 10.42pm.
Overall the Panel was very concerned about the impression given by the arrangements. Althoughthe email invitation to the meeting had been sent by the meeting organiser, it was extremely important that representatives controlled the arrangements for meetings which they sponsored. Although the representative had referred to the need for 90 minutes of presentation and discussion there had been no more than 1 hour of education. The invitation and the overall arrangements implied that the evening was primarily a Christmas social event and it would have been on this basis that the delegates had agreed to attend. A breach of the Code was ruled which was appealed by Novo Nordisk. The Panel considered that both the representative and company had failed to maintain high standards. A breach of the Code was ruled which was not appealed.
The Panel noted that a primarily social event at Christmas had been sponsored by, inter alia, Novo Nordisk. Although the meeting was initiated and organised by a local clinician, it was beholden upon the company to check that all of the arrangements were consistent with the Code and in the view of the Panel the company had not met its obligations in this regard. The email invitation and subsequent email to the representative should have triggered a review of the arrangements. None of the meeting materials before the Panel contained a declaration of the company’s sponsorship as required by the Code. The Panel considered that overall the arrangements brought discredit upon and reduced confidence in the pharmaceutical industry. A breach of Clause 2 was ruled. This ruling was appealed by Novo Nordisk.
The Appeal Board noted that the representative had agreed to sponsor the meeting after the organiser had already emailed potential attendees describing the event as ‘Christmas at [named restaurant] ‘and the ‘Xmas meal’. The impression given by the email was that the educational part of the event had been added on to the main purpose which was the departmental Christmas meal. The representative was sent a copy of that email. Although her reply, dated 16 November, reminded the organiser about the need for a private room and 1½ hours of education she did not try to correct the impression that the main reason for the meeting was the departmental Christmas meal. The meeting was held on 15 December and in the Appeal Board’s view the representative had time and should have done more to ensure that the arrangements for the meeting, and the impression of those arrangements, complied with the Code. There was no written agreement between the representative and the meeting organiser, only a brief exchange of emails. The representative had checked the venue.
The Appeal Board noted from the company’s representatives at the appeal that as the representative at issue was experienced, it was her responsibility to ensure that all of the arrangements for the meeting complied with the Code. To that end representatives were trained on the Code and the company’s standard operating procedure (SOP) on meetings and hospitality. The Appeal Board was concerned that although Novo Nordisk had accepted the ruling of a breach of the Code the company’srepresentatives at the appeal were confident that its representative knew the requirements of the SOP.
The Appeal Board considered that Novo Nordisk had taken inadequate measures to ensure that the arrangements for the pre-organised meeting which its representative had agreed to sponsor complied with the Code. The Appeal Board noted that the supplementary information to the Code stated that the impression created by the arrangements for any meeting must be kept in mind. The Appeal Board upheld the Panel’s ruling of a breach of the Code. The appeal on this point was unsuccessful.
The Appeal Board noted its concerns above, but in light of the educational content, it decided that on balance, the arrangements were not such as to bring discredit upon or reduce confidence in the pharmaceutical industry. No breach of Clause 2 was ruled. The appeal on this point was successful.