AUTH/3496/3/21 - Complainant v AbbVie

Alleged Promotion of Skyrizi

  • Received
    26 March 2021
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    13 October 2021
  • Breach Clause(s)
  • Sanctions applied
    Undertaking received
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal

Case Summary

A contactable complainant who described him/herself as a health professional complained about a digital banner advertisement for Skyrizi (risankizumab) placed by AbbVie Ltd on the British Dermatological Nursing Group website. Skyrizi was indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults who were candidates for systemic therapy.

The banner featured the claim ‘BAD [British Association of Dermatologists] Guidelines recommend Skyrizi as a first line biologic’ and an asterisk led readers to the footnote, ‘For adults with psoriasis who fulfil the criteria for biologic therapy, using the decision aid to inform treatment choice. This is not a comprehensive data source. Please refer to full published guidelines and drug [summaries of product characteristics (SPCs)].’

The complainant alleged that the banner advertisement suggested that the BAD Guidelines directly recommended Skyrizi. The BAD Guidelines did not mention Skyrizi as first choice, they referred to any of the licensed biologic therapies.

The complainant alleged that the suggestion that Skyrizi was recommended (ie it was inferred that it was the only one to be recommended) as first line biologic was misleading; it was clearly a good option but the recommendation was not only for Skyrizi but for all the biologics. The impression, by reading the banner, however, was that BAD explicitly picked risankizumab out of all the other biologic options, which was clearly incorrect. The complainant alleged that AbbVie was stretching the boundaries.

The detailed response from AbbVie is given below.

The Panel noted that the banner advertisement at issue featured the Skyrizi product logo in the top left hand corner and in the centre of the banner, in bold capital letters was the claim ‘BAD Guidelines recommend Skyrizi as a first line biologic2*’.

The Panel noted that the claim was referenced to Smith et al 2020 which was the ‘British Association of Dermatologists guidelines for biologic therapy for psoriasis 2020: a rapid update’; it stated that the update was part of an annual review to factor in the latest evidence for biological medicines evaluated in the 2017 publication of the guideline, and newer biological medicines licensed for psoriasis in the UK or were expected to be licensed in the near future.

The Panel noted that Smith et al commented on biological therapy as a whole and did not detail any specific medicine – risankizumab was only mentioned twice in the guidelines, once in the list of biologics included in the review and once within the footnote to a figure. Under a heading of ‘Criteria for biologic therapy’, the authors stated that such therapy should be offered to certain patients with psoriasis who required systemic therapy and under a heading of ‘Choice of biologic therapy in adults’, it was stated that any of the currently licensed biologic therapies could be offered as first-line therapy. The Panel considered that it was clear that Smith et al did not single out risankizumab from the other biologics available.

The Panel noted that risankizumab (Skyrizi) was one of the biologics that could be used as a first line therapy in adults with psoriasis who fulfilled the criteria for biologic therapy in the BAD guidelines. The advertisement was not clear that Skyrizi had not been specifically recommended by BAD but had instead been listed as one of the many licensed biologic options. The Panel considered the immediate impression of the claim ‘BAD Guidelines recommend Skyrizi as a first line biologic’ to a busy health professional and considered that it misleadingly implied that the BAD guidelines had singled out Skyrizi from the other biologics available and specifically recommended it, which was not so. Such an impression could not be substantiated. Breaches of the Code were ruled.