Code of ethics for pharmaceutical players a game-changer


Code bans gifts and promotional aids for prescription medicine

Wednesday October 30 2019

Players in the Kenyan pharmaceutical space have embraced a new code of ethics to promote self-regulation and proper business conduct.

Benchmarked against global standards by pharma sector players, and which seeks to promote self-governance, the new code of ethics championed by the Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry (Kapi) heralds a new dawn in the practice in Kenya.

The adoption of the new Kapi Code of Ethics, that guides the business conduct and interactions of its members with their customers and users of their products, is a welcome move.

The code aims at encouraging fair competition, eliminating deceptive business practices, ensuring compliance with applicable rules and legislation, and ensuring the ultimate consumer of a healthcare product — who is the patient — benefits maximally from innovation and scientific breakthrough.

The code bans gifts and promotional aids for prescription medicine wherever its member companies operate. It also introduces a shift from a rule-based approach to a value-based one to better guide business behaviour and interaction between Kapi members and the healthcare community at large.

The code bans the issuance of all promotional items related to prescription-only medications for healthcare professionals’ use in the office, including Post-its, calendars, and similar “reminder” items with company or product logos.


The only items that can be provided to healthcare professionals are company-branded pens or notepads for the providers to take notes during company-organised events. Promotional aids related to over-the-counter products with minimal value and in small quantity can still be provided to healthcare providers if relevant to their practice.

The code has also added a new category of informational or educational items covering gifts such as scientific books, journal subscriptions and memory sticks with educational data. These items may be given to healthcare providers for their own education or that of patients if the items do not have an independent value, but product branding is not permitted. The same rule applies to products of medical utility used to train patients (such as inhalers or self-injectors) which also may not be branded.
The ban on gifts now includes the typical exceptions based on the custom of gifts to mark significant national, cultural or religious events (for example, mooncakes or condolence payments). This means those customary gifts are no longer acceptable under the code.

This change brings Kenya in line with current global European and US guidelines, while also reflecting the pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to the general concern that promotional items may underplay the important, professional relationship that must exist between medical representatives and healthcare professionals.

This relationship is based on the concept that mutual exchange ensures the patient will benefit from all parties sharing expertise and scientific knowledge, enabling the development and effective use of new medicinal products and vaccines.

Kapi’s new ethos which replaced the Guiding Principles, aims to go beyond that and seeks to instil a culture of ethics and integrity. Trust is at the centre of the ethos and the values of care, fairness, respect and honesty describe how the industry strives to achieve this trust. This new ethical framework is expected to guide business behaviour and interaction between Kapi members and the healthcare community, irrespective of the circumstance.

Mr Okubasu serves as a cross-sectoral healthcare compliance specialist for Johnson & Johnson and is a member of the Kenya Association of Pharmaceutical Industry Compliance Committee