AUTH/3471/2/21 - Complainant v Sanofi

Conduct of a representative

  • Received
    05 February 2021
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    09 August 2021
  • No breach Clause(s)
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal

Case Summary

A contactable complainant, who described him/herself as a nurse, raised concerns about the promotion of Toujeo (insulin glargine) in that towards the end of 2020, a Sanofi representative had emailed him/her Toujeo Coach invitations for webinars later in the year. The complainant had not given the representative or Sanofi permission to use him/her email. The complainant stated that the representative apologised but explained that he/she was under pressure, as permission to email and emails sent were being tracked by Sanofi and low performers made redundant. The complainant explained that that was why he/she had not named the representative but considered this a breach of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The detailed response from Sanofi is given below.

The Panel noted that a complainant had the burden of proving his/her complaint on the balance of probabilities. All complaints were judged on the evidence provided by the parties. The complainant had not named the representative and had requested that the matter be looked into anonymously. The Panel could not ask the complainant for further details and, overall, it considered that there was insufficient information to allow Sanofi to clearly identify the particular circumstances or for it to know whether the complainant had given permission to be contacted by email.

The Panel noted Sanofi’s submission about the arrangements for ensuring that representatives had permission to email health professionals. The company had restructured its diabetes sales force in September/October 2020 with the intention of retaining the highest performing, ‘fit for the future’ people. As part of that exercise, the company had retrospectively assessed each representative’s customers’ provision of consent for receipt of direct marketing/promotional materials by email and his/her customers’ participation in virtual meetings. Whilst this might increase the pressure on the representative to email health professionals, the Panel noted that the assessment was retrospective and so it queried whether it could have had any influence on representative behaviour. It was possible that the representative was concerned that such an exercise might happen in the future. In any event, it appeared that the restructuring exercise was completed by mid October 2020, by which time all those impacted by the reorganisation had been advised of their own outcome; Sanofi assumed that the complainant had referred to emails sent by representatives to UK health professionals in November 2020.

The Panel noted that representatives were briefed only to email Toujeo prescribers who had given their consent to receive direct promotional emails. The Panel noted that as of March 2020, there were no activity metrics for input measures such as expected or actual customer contacts. Based on the evidence before it, the Panel did not consider that Sanofi’s briefings advocated any course of action which would be likely to lead to a breach of the Code in relation to invitations to the meetings at issue.

There was no information before the Panel that Sanofi had breached GDPR as alleged.

A judgement had to be made on the available evidence bearing in mind the extreme dissatisfaction usually necessary on the part of an individual before he/she was moved to submit a complaint. The Panel did not consider that the complainant, who bore the burden of proof, had established his/her case on the balance of probabilities in relation to the emails which he/she stated had been received from the representative. The Panel therefore ruled no breaches of the Code.