2010 marks 50 years since Medicines Australia first introduced the Code of Conduct. In five decades the Code has evolved dramatically. From a small booklet in the 1960s that could practically fit in a back pocket and scrutinised use of telegrams as a communications channel – to Edition 16 now two A4 manuscripts holding almost 300 pages with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube under the microscope!
Edition 16 now provides the pharmaceutical industry with even tighter and more specific standards for the marketing and promotion of prescription products and engagement with healthcare professionals, patients and the general public.
When it comes to communicating with the general public what was once quite ‘grey’ and open to interpretation, has become far more lucid.
For the first time there is clarity on previously debated areas. When a company can issue a product-specific media release and what can and can’t be included is now qualified. How a company can respond to journalists requesting internationally released data on unregistered or ‘off-label’ products is also specified.
Edition 16 also features a sub-section on social media, recognising that while industry is still a little cautious with this new sphere of communication, it cannot be ignored.
At first glance Edition 16 may come across as more restrictive when it comes to industry’s relationship with the general public and media. And no doubt, it has prompted many a communications professional to consider how to convey a balanced, Code-compliant message that also piques the interest of one of its primary conduits of communication – the media.
However, on closer assessment, clarification of ‘grey’ areas and the setting of very clear parameters to work within can only be seen as a positive step. Greater alignment and consistency among each company’s approach to marketing and communications is important – and may assist in minimising the public scrutiny the industry has been forced to face in recent years.