Drug firm tops ethical offender list

A DRUG company accused of marketing sleeping pills to children has topped a list of multinationals found to have abused consumer rights.

Advocacy organisations from 115 countries will be told today that the US branch of Japan’s largest drug company, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, has been judged most unethical at the Consumers International World Congress in Sydney.

Also singled out is Coca-Cola, which was forced to take its bottled water, Dasani, off shelves in Britain earlier this year after an analysis found it was local tap water, and Kellogg’s, for its use of cartoon characters and product tie-ins to market sugar-dense cereals to children worldwide.

Mattel’s lead paint and faulty toy scandal, which resulted in more than 21 million toys being recalled globally, will earn the company a brickbat, with claims its chief executive, Robert Eckert, blocked a US Government investigation by denying access to its Chinese factories and banning staff from being interviewed.

Mattel also stands accused of blame-shifting after it emerged about half the toys recalled had design flaws rather than defects from Chinese manufacturing.

“This is a classic case of avoiding accountability and shifting responsibility,” said Richard Lloyd, the director general of Consumers International.

“Wherever the fault lies, the safety of consumers was compromised and this should be the full focus of Mattel’s attention.”

The international federation of consumer watchdogs, which includes Australia’s Choice, took into account the size of the company, the global scale of sales and marketing, and the direct impact on consumers when drawing up the list of offenders.

In the case of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the company was found to have abused advertising laws in a television campaign for the insomnia drug ramelteon, marketed as Rozerem in the US.

American drug companies are permitted to run “reminder ads” to keep consumers aware of the need to buy their medicines without having to list a drug’s side effects or appropriate use.

Major side effects of Rozerem include worsening insomnia, behaviour changes — such as self-harm — and changes to the reproductive system.

The ad used images of schoolchildren, blackboards, schoolbooks and a school bus. The voice-over stated: “Rozerem would like to remind you that it’s back-to-school season.”

While the ad appeared to be targeting parents, the US Food and Drug Administration found in March that the voice-over and images suggested that “Rozerem is indicated for and can be safely used in the pediatric population”.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said yesterday that ramelteon was not approved for use in Australia.

Takeda has no Australian office.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: