Johnson & Johnson in breach of UK drugs rules over Nicorette marketing

Johnson & Johnson has breached the UK drug regulation code in three places in promotions for smoking cessation product Nicorette.

Johnson & Johnson in breach of UK drugs rules over Nicorette marketing

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority today released decisions in seven cases. Three of these related to online ads in general practitioners' magazine Pulse for Nicorette.

All three of those complaints came unnamed health professionals working as a consultant to Novartis – it is not known whether this was the same consultant in each instance – although in each case Novartis said it was not involved in making of the complaint.

It is not the first time Nicorette has caused controversy in its marketing: in 2014 it provoked ire from e-cigarette brands over an ad that told smokers not to "vape".

Johnson & Johnson was ruled in breach of the code for not providing, in the words of the PMCPA decision, a "clear, prominent statement as to where the prescribing information could be found" in its ad.

It also breached the code twice with banner ads which implied "that the product itself had incredible features and/or that health professionals would be doing something incredible by prescribing it", without acknowledging the difficulty smokers had in quitting.

In other cases, Italian pharmaceutical company Chiesi was found in breach for an ad for Fostair, which was inconsistent with the product's information leaflet.

There was also a breach by Pfizer in an ad, also in Pulse, for a smoking cessation event. The ad copy for did not "recognise the special nature of medicines and the professional standing of the audience", the PMCPA ruled.

The Pfizer complaint also came from a consultant for Novartis, with the company again saying it was not involved in the matter.

In each case, the companies responsible for breaches have detailed to the PMCPA actions taken to avoid repeating their errors, but there is no further reprimand beyond the negative publicity that comes from the decision being made public.

None of the cases published today included a breach in clause two of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry code, which relates to bringing discredit to the industry.

A version of this article was first published by PRWeek