Marketing to healthcare professionals
Our marketing efforts are directed towards doctors, other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants) and to those who pay for healthcare, including governments. We use a range of different ways to provide these groups with the information they need to make fully informed decisions. These include face-to-face contact and, to drive efficiency and effectiveness for our customers and for our business, the use of telephone sales teams and dedicated customer staff. Alongside this, we are also making more use of the internet and other digital channels to share information.
Does AstraZeneca make payments to doctors?
Yes, but these are strictly controlled and limited to healthcare professionals who undertake specific, contracted services for AstraZeneca, based upon a genuine business need for the services. These services include:
- Speaking at, chairing or moderating scientific, promotional or educational meetings.
- Providing specific consultancy services and advice.
- Running training events for our sales representatives and other employees to help them understand the science behind our products, and the impact that diseases have on patients’ lives.
All payments must be based on fair market value and reflect the time and qualifications needed for preparation and performance of the service.
Our Global Policy on Ethical Interactions requires that payments made to doctors and other healthcare professionals are tracked to ensure that excessive single or collective payments are not being made to individuals. In some countries, including the US, we have set a limit on the fees a doctor can receive for services per year.
We continue to look at ways to improve the consistency and extend the reach of our data collection in this area, and increase public transparency of this data.
Do you pay travel and accommodation expenses for doctors attending your conferences?
In some limited circumstances, we support doctors with travel and accommodation to enable them to attend company organised meetings, where a scientific, medical education or other legitimate business purpose exists.. Meeting venues and meals provided must be modest. We have embedded robust controls in our process for supporting travel and accommodation to ensure that it is only provided in a lawful and ethical manner that is consistent with our commitment to integrity.
Do you provide gifts for doctors?
Our Policy only allows for modest gifts to be given to healthcare professionals as expressions of sympathy in the case of bereavement or serious illness. In exceptional circumstances, where the absence of a gift is against the cultural norm and may be potentially offensive, modest value cultural courtesy gifts may be provided with executive management approval. We also allow modest items of medical use that are educational in nature (such as anatomical models) and relevant medical literature to be provided to individual healthcare professionals.
Do you allow off-label promotion of unlicensed products or uses?
No. Off-label promotion (the marketing of medicines for other uses or for the treatment of patient groups not specified in the prescribing information) is illegal and prohibited by our policies.
Our medicines are approved by regulatory authorities for the treatment or prevention of disease only after rigorous testing has demonstrated an acceptable benefit/risk profile. You can read more about this in the Patient Safety section. We do not promote a medicine before it has been granted the relevant marketing authorisation. The approved uses are specified in the prescribing information for each medicine.
Doctors may decide that it is the best interests of their patient to prescribe a medicine for an unlicensed use. Off-label prescribing is the doctor’s decision, based on his or her independent clinical opinion as to what is right for the patient. This sometimes leads to doctors making unprompted requests to us for off-label information. Such enquiries are referred by our representatives to the appropriate AstraZeneca medical personnel who can provide relevant non-promotional material to the doctor. Such material provided to the doctor clearly states that the use is not registered and that AstraZeneca does not recommend usage outside the approved indications.
Are all the claims you make for your medicines fully supported?
Yes. A fundamental requirement of external regulations and our own Policy is that all marketing claims about medicines must be supported by scientific proof. We work to ensure that the claims we make reflect the balance of all the available information. When we claim that a medicine is more effective than another one, this must be supported by high quality clinical trials that have demonstrated that superiority.
We have doctors, pharmacists and other experts as our ‘Nominated Signatories’ who approve promotional materials and the claims we make. They exercise their professional judgement to help ensure that our marketing activities comply with all relevant codes and regulations; and that they are always in the best interests of patients.
Sometimes, in the highly complex and technical field of medical research, the acceptability of a product claim may not be absolutely clear. Effective external mechanisms, operated by code of practice bodies, government regulators or the courts, are in place to receive complaints and independently judge claims that might not be fully supported. We support these mechanisms and comply with the rulings of code of practice and regulatory and other adjudications.
Do you market your medicines through third parties? Do they apply the same standards?
Yes, we work with other organisations such as suppliers, distributors and co-promotion partners to complement our own sales and marketing efforts. We actively engage with these organisations to make sure that we are all operating to the same high standards of ethical practice. You can read more about our commitment to responsible procurement in the Working with suppliers section of this website.
If applying your Global Policy means you have to walk away from a business opportunity, will you do that?
Yes. Our Policy reflects our commitment to doing the right thing, not the easy thing across our sales and marketing activity. Compliance is mandatory.