Boehringer Ingelheim found in breach of NOAH Code on promotion

The NOAH Code of Practice on Promotion of Animal Medicines Committee met on 19 July, with Guy Tritton as Chair, to hear Case 299.

This involved a complaint brought by MSD Animal Health against Boehringer Ingelheim concerning the latter’s promotion of Bovela, a Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) vaccine. The case was focussed on 2 promotional straplines used by Boehringer Ingelheim and contained 2 items of complaint:

  1. No contest Bovela is knocking out BVD’ which appeared in an article in the Vet Times dated 13 May 2019 and in an email campaign sent to veterinary surgeons dated 24 April 2019 (Item 1).
  2. Bovela. Making BVD history’ used in an article in the Vet Times dated 13 May 2019 and in an email campaign sent to veterinary surgeons dated 24 April 2019 (Item 2).

Following in-depth deliberations, the unanimous decisions of the Committee was that the 2 items were in breach of the Code.

With Item 1, the Committee unanimously concluded that the advertisement ‘No contest Bovela is Knocking out BVD’ was misleading by omission, in that it implies that the live vaccine Bovela by itself will eradicate BVD and not as part of a broader strategy in combination with other measures. The Committee found that it was agreed by all that no vaccine could eradicate BVD alone and the only way to do so is by using a combination strategy of identification of infected animals, culling of PI calves and strict biosecurity. The Committee concluded that the strap line ‘No contest Bovela is Knocking out BVD’ was a breach of Clause 4(3)(iii) of the Code as it implies that the live vaccine Bovela by itself will eradicate BVD and not as part of a combination strategy and is therefore misleading in an indirect manner.

With Item 2, the Committee found unanimously that the juxtaposition of ‘Making BVD History’ with Bovela amounted to an exaggerated claim that Bovela (although accepted as being a highly efficacious vaccine) is by its use eradicating BVD. The Committee considered this to be exaggerated because it implies that Bovela alone is making BVD a matter of the past e.g. eradicating BVD.

Therefore, it was held by the Committee that ‘Bovela. Making BVD History’ was a breach of Clause 4.3(vi) of the Code in that it was an exaggerated claim.

Following the case Boehringer Ingelheim have signed the required Undertaking, acknowledging and accepting the Committee’s decision and agreeing not to market or promote to veterinarians marketing material which uses the phrases:

(i) ‘No contest Bovela is knocking out BVD’ without at the same time, using qualifying wording e.g. an asterisk pointing to reasonable prominent wording which uses words such as “when used as part of an integrated approach to BVD such as culling of PI calves and biosecurity” or words to that effect.

(ii) ‘Bovela. Making BVD History’ but without prejudice to the right to use ‘Bovela. Make BVD History’.

Notes for Editors

  1. For further information on NOAH contact Dawn Howard at NOAH, tel. +44 (0)20 8367 3131, or visit the code section of the NOAH website.

  2. NOAH represents the UK animal health industry. Its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality products and services for the health and welfare of all animals.

  3. More details of Case 299 are available here https://www.noah.co.uk/focus-areas/promotion-of-animal-medicines/cases/2019-cases/

  4. Since 1974 the animal medicine industry has regulated the contents and quality of advertisements, leaflets and promotional activities under its Code of Practice for the Promotion of Animal Medicines which is obligatory for all NOAH members and companies participating in the NOAH Datasheet Compendium. The Code is administered by a committee of 15, including an independent chairman, veterinary and farming members as well as elected industry experts.