European Union law prohibits companies from marketing drugs off-label. In the United Kingdom—as in some other European countries, but unlike the United States—industry self-regulatory bodies are tasked with supervising compliance with marketing rules. The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize off-label promotion rulings in the UK compared to the whistleblower-initiated cases in the US and (2) shed light on the UK self-regulatory mechanism for detecting, deterring, and sanctioning off-label promotion.

In many European countries, medicines promotion is governed by voluntary codes of practice administered by the pharmaceutical industry under its own system of self-regulation. Involvement of industry organizations in policing promotion has been proposed to deter illicit conduct, but few detailed studies on self-regulation have been carried out to date. The objective of this study was to examine the evidence for promotion and self-regulation in the UK and Sweden, two countries frequently cited as examples of effective self-regulation.