Ineffective Self-Regulation in the European Pharmaceutical Industry


The European health system of voluntary self-regulation in the pharmaceutical industry is being called into question by the findings of a study, published in the medical journal PLOS Medicine in February 2015, which revealed that European drug makers are regularly violating marketing practice codes. Data from 2004-2012 found that major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Novartis, and others, are violating marketing rules, including through misleading promotions of drug effectiveness, at least once per week—20% of which were considered serious code breaches. Average penalties for these transgressions in the United Kingdom and Sweden, for example, range from $500,000-$860,000, which amounts for only 0.0051% and 0.114% of annual pharmaceutical sales, respectively. The study concludes that this data proves the inability of the pharmaceutical industry to regulate itself and that these penalties are too small to deter wrongdoing, calling for reform of the healthcare oversight system in the European Union in order to protect patient safety.

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