Misleading e-mail letter
This complaint was made against Mölnlycke Health Care by the chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. It related to an alleged breach of the code concerning the promotion of wound dressing products to GP practices in North Wales in the form of an e-mail communication.
The text of the complaint implied that the following clauses of the code may have been breached: (1) Clause 3.3 of the code, which relates to the conduct of representatives and misleading claims, and (2) Clause 3.4 of the code, which relates to misleading and ambiguous statements in promotional material; and to comparative promotional statements.
The core of this complaint was an e-mailed letter sent to employees of the health board that was not clearly attributed to Mölnlycke Healthcare. This led recipients of the letter to believe it was an internal communication from the health board. The letter was promoting the cost-effectiveness of a new product available from Mölnlycke Health Care – and included comparisons with other named products.
The panel supported the complaint made by Betsi Cadwaladr UHB – as it was difficult not to assume that the letter was sent from an employee of Betsi Cadwaladr UHB and was clearly read in this context. This is the first time an NHS organisation has made a formal complaint under the SDMA Code of Practice. This was acknowledged by Mölnlycke Health Care by the speed and seriousness of the corrective actions they took – which included immediate direct contact with the health board. Mölnlycke Health Care also acknowledged the misleading nature of the e-mail.
Consequently, the panel felt that there was a clear breach of clause 3.3 of the code (that requires a high standard of ethical conduct).
The letter was considered to be promotional material as it was distributed to GP surgeries and care homes in north Wales. In addition, the letter contained statements comparing a new Mölnlycke product with a named competitor – with no supporting evidence referenced.
Consequently, the panel felt there was a clear breach of clause 3.4 of the code (that requires promotional material to be unambiguous and not mislead, and that product claims must be referenced).
The panel were pleased to note that Mölnlycke put significant corrective actions in place without any hesitation.
Complaint adjudicated on 3 February 2016