Pfizer chief executive Albert Borla is in the regulator’s crosshairs for statements he made during a BBC interview last year that the Covid vaccine, while unapproved, was intended for young children. These claims are said to be “false” and “excessive advertising”.
This is the latest finding in an ongoing case at Britain’s medicines marketing regulator, the Pharmaceutical Code Practice Authority (PMCPA), reports The Telegraph.
In an interview with the BBC on December 2, 2021, Pfizer boss Parla said “There is no doubt that the benefits of vaccinating young people between the ages of 5 and 11 against COVID are overwhelmingly positive.».
He added:COVID is on the rise in schools […] This significantly disrupts the education system, and there are children who have severe symptoms.»
Borla gave the interview before the vaccine was given to children, meaning anything seen as promoting the vaccine could be considered a breach of strict rules for marketing drugs in the world.
In fact, it wasn’t until February this year that the UK government decided that children between the ages of 5 and 11 could be vaccinated. The government has left the decision of whether or not to vaccinate children in the hands of parents.
In a complaint filed in the UK by parents’ campaign group UsForThem, which aims to highlight the harm to children during the pandemic, the group called Bourla’s comments “blatantly false” and “highly inflammatory in nature. The organization argued that Bourla’s interview breached several clauses of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) code of conduct.”
According to the Telegraph, the BMCPA, which enforces the APPI code, found that Pfizer violated the rules in a number of ways, including misleading the public, making unsubstantiated claims and not providing information in a true and consistent manner.
The BMCPA had earlier ruled that Pfizer had brought the industry into disrepute, encouraged the irrational use of a drug and failed to maintain high standards, the most serious of the violations.
But Pfizer fought back and appealed those decisions. Ultimately, according to the Telegraph, the BMCPA cracked down on most serious violations.
An extraordinary leak at the Telegraph
The manner in which this news came to light was unusual. The PMCPA is a self-regulatory body set up by the pharmaceutical industry, but it can apply stiff penalties if companies are found to be violating its marketing rules. In more extreme cases, findings are published in medical journals.
These cases are still uploaded on the BMCPA website and once completed, they are available for public inspection. But the Pfizer case – officially titled AUTH/3591/12/21 – a complaint on behalf of UsForThem v Pfizer – is still ongoing.
Details appear to have been provided in advance to the Telegraph but not to anyone else, which is not normal practice. PMCPA Fierce Pharma Marketing could not say how or why the Telegraph came across this information, but a spokesman said “we expect to publish the case report on our website before Christmas”.