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Firm censured on ABCD row

Merck Sharpe and Dohme has been found in breach of the UK drug industry's code of conduct after modifying British Hypertension Society guidance to favour its own products.

Dr Des Spence, a GP in Glasgow, reported MSD last year for modifying a version of the guidelines it had funded for distribution to doctors (see Pulse, 30 July).

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority this week ruled MSD had breached its code by switching the order of the drug classes listed in the 'A' section of the ABCD algorithm.

The original guidelines, published in the BMJ, had listed ACE inhibitors first and said GPs should use 'the least expensive drugs'. But MSD, which makes the ARB losartan, had put ARBs first. The company said that it received e-mail approval from the BHS for the materials.

An MSD spokesperson confirmed it had received an 'adverse ruling' from the watchdog, which it would not be appealing.

The company has withdrawn all materials featuring the altered guidelines.

The BHS said it had changed its policy as a result of the incident, so that all publications were now overseen directly by the society.

Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the BHS guidelines committee, said: 'It was an oversight that was not properly checked by the BHS. We have changed our procedures so that we no longer allow third parties to put out information on behalf of the BHS.'

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