BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 16:54 GMT
Reckitt Benckiser's response to Newsnight
In response to a Newsnight report on Friday 7 March about Gaviscon the manufacturers, Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare UK, said in a statement:

We are shocked by the allegations made as Reckitt Benckiser is a responsible company in the way it conducts its business.

Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the inappropriate sentiment expressed in some of the historic internal correspondence. We take this very seriously and have instigated an immediate internal investigation, and will take action. We also refute much of what has been reported which implies a power and influence we simply do not possess.

The company has never objected to a monograph driven generic name being published. The timetable of which is not, and never has been, within our control - a monograph/generic name could have been published at any time by the regulators without reference to any third party.

The company made appropriate challenges where it felt it was justified in order to ensure patients are prescribed the right treatment. These were within the law and relevant regulations. We stress that the regulators only take a comment into account when it is valid.

Gaviscon is a very small part of the 350m the NHS spends on drugs to treat illnesses such as heartburn and dyspepsia - less than 6%. Patients with heartburn can be treated with many different but equally effective treatments including Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), H2 receptor blockers, and other cheaper alginate equivalents to Gaviscon. These treatments are in the main interchangeable. Ultimately only doctors have sole and absolute choice on which of these to prescribe.

Regarding your specific reference to alleged pressure from sales reps to GPs, we have had one case only regarding this issue relating to one single rep (out of 86) working for us in the NHS sales force. RB accepted the decision of the ABPI panel in August 2005. This was an unfortunate, one-off incident, not endorsed by the company, the representative was reprimanded, and we immediately took all possible steps to avoid any other similar breaches of the code. Since then we have no evidence or record that any sales reps have breached the Code of Practice.

Gaviscon Original and Gaviscon Advance have been available in the NHS since 1971 and 1997 respectively and both remain available for doctors to prescribe today. Gaviscon Advance is a second generation alginate product - the result of considerable investment in R&D - with proven stronger, longer lasting effect and lower sodium salt content.

Given its improved properties, dose for dose Gaviscon Advance still costs exactly the same as Gaviscon Original - providing doctors and patients with a better product, at no additional cost.


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