Roche Execs at Conference Slam Vodka Shots, Tossed From Bar

Roche Execs at Conference Slam Vodka Shots, Tossed From Bar

February 21st, 2013 // 5:30 pm @

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After a hard day at a medical conference, a pair of senior Roche employees grabbed a taxi and went to a “lively, loud, party bar” to unwind. But then the Roche employees bought “round after round of shot drinks” for doctors who were also enjoying themselves. And the drinks “flowed like hot lava,” according to an anonymous complaint filed with the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, a UK panel that monitors industry behavior.

There was more. The Roche employees “revelled way after midnight with a large group” that “swelled in size as others joined and the party was raucous,” according to the complaint. And then, one senior employee jumped on a stage and allegedly “made a buffoon of himself by being physically evicted” from the bar. As a result, the PMCPA decided that Roche breached one code for failing to maintain high standards in the presence of health professionals.

Such episodes are, of course, an embarrassment. In its defense, Roche maintained its staff – a total of nine Roche employees found their way to the bar – had not arrived with any health professionals nor invited them to meet there. The drugmaker also submitted receipts that did not seem to prove that its employees purchased drinks for any health professionals, who consumed which drinks or that the money spent was for shots, specifically.

Although Roche conceded its employees were at the bar until a late hour, the drugmaker argued that there was no firm evidence to suggest employee behavior was inappropriate and also objected to the idea that a breach of code should be considered simply because its employees may be found in the same bar as health professionals. Roche maintained that a breach of code was “illogical, perverse and simply wrong.” And so Roche appealed.

Nonetheless, the PMCPA disagreed and noted, “Roche employees were in the conference city as representatives of their company for business reasons and, as such, they should continue to be mindful of the impression created by behavior beyond the conference and any associated subsistence/meetings. This was particularly important when interacting with UK health professionals and especially so in a late-night social environment.

“…The appeals panel queried whether a shared social environment, particularly in the early hours of the morning, could ever be appropriate. The impression given by a senior member of Roche’s staff being escorted off the premises at around 1 am, for whatever reason, whilst attending a business event was most unfortunate, particularly given general criticism about interactions between health professionals and pharmaceutical companies.”

“…The appeal board was particularly concerned about the removal of one employee from the premises who had not been allowed to retrieve his own belongings and the impression created which it considered was unacceptable. The circumstances amounted to a failure to maintain high standards.” And so, the appeals panel upheld the panel ruling that a breach of the industry code took place (Here is the PMCPA report).

After hearing of this episode, a few Roche executives may want to get a drink – but they should be careful not to do so in a bar with physicians, and certainly should take care not to dance on any stages.


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