Britain's drug industry trade group, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, has suspended Abbott Laboratories' membership because company sales representatives paid for lap dances, Wimbledon tickets and other perks for health professionals, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
The suspension is mostly symbolic and does not restrict sales of the firm's products in the United Kingdom, but it comes at a time when drug companies are under fire for lavishing doctors and other health-care executives with gifts as part of their marketing.
Critics said the behavior of the Abbott employees and the doctors involved is troubling because it occurred after the industry said it would begin policing itself with regard to gifts and entertainment designed to influence a doctor's decision on what drugs to prescribe.
The trade group said it would exile Abbott for at least six months for violating the organization's ethics code, calling it “one of the most serious cases it had considered.”
Abbott said the employees involved in the series of 2004 events either resigned or were terminated before the association began its investigation in July 2005.
The North Chicago-based drug maker would say only that a small number of employees were involved. The association's investigation was prompted by an anonymous complaint and cited involvement by at least three Abbott employees.