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Welcome to a valuable code

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 24, PAGE NO: 51

Jacqui Fletcher, BSc, PG Cert, RN, is senior lecturer, tissue viability

Have you ever read an advertisement or company literature that made claims you disagreed with or which you found misleading? Alternatively, have you been unhappy with the behaviour of a company representative or the information they have supplied? What if the company does not take your comments seriously? Is there anything you can do about it?

Have you ever read an advertisement or company literature that made claims you disagreed with or which you found misleading? Alternatively, have you been unhappy with the behaviour of a company representative or the information they have supplied? What if the company does not take your comments seriously? Is there anything you can do about it?

In 2000 the Surgical Dressing Manufacturers Association (SDMA) launched the first edition of its code of practice for promotion of surgical dressings to health care professionals. Broadly speaking, the aims of the code include the following: the promotion of high professional standards of business practice among SDMA members and their employees; to make these standards widely known both in industry and by health professionals; to encourage the development and appropriate use of dressings; to create an environment where new advances may be made in an ethical manner and to provide a complaints procedure when breaches to the code are perceived to have occurred.

At first reading it may appear that this is of little significance to most nurses, yet it is an interesting and valuable document. It defines very clearly what we can expect of the member companies (membership of SDMA is voluntary), both in terms of how they promote their products and how their company representatives can be expected to behave.

The code contains a very clear section on the provision of gifts and inducements and how special promotions and competitions should be organised. This is not intended to prevent the giving away of the usual 'freebies' that many have come to expect when seeing company representatives or visiting company stands at conferences or exhibitions. Instead it ensures that no undue pressure is put on the less experienced practitioner to 'toe the company line' or perhaps embellish information by the offering of more extravagant gifts.

Perhaps the most important sections of the code deal with advertising, promotional materials and product information claims. How many of you have read adverts and have either been incensed by the claims or wanted to know more and checked the reference list to find 'data on file'? Just try getting hold of the data on file or even the references stated in the list, some of which are from obscure journals or not translated into English. The code now requires that information cited is accessible in the public domain, that is published in a journal or available from the company within 10 working days.

The SDMA believes that industry members should behave in an honourable and ethical manner. Most of the time they do. However, should you believe that this is not the case there is now a way to formalise your complaints. Obviously all complaints should be brought to the notice of the company concerned, but the SDMA offers an unbiased opinion based on agreed standards.

- Copies of the code of practice are available free of charge from the SDMA, tel/fax: 01706 641035, or can be viewed at www.sdma.org.uk

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