The next time that Mylan runs a convention booth and wants to provide doctors with something nourishing, the drug maker may want to offer biscuits or fruit instead of yogurt.

That’s because the company was scolded by a United Kingdom pharmaceutical industry watchdog for handing out cups of frozen yogurt last summer at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. The event was held in London and attended by more than 30,000 medical professionals and industry representatives.

An anonymous complaint, however, was filed with the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority over lavish exhibition booths and a party-like atmosphere, according to a PMCPA report. Mylan was cited as one of the offenders, and the watchdog decided that the drug maker breached the industry code for acceptable behavior by distributing frozen yogurt.

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Why is yogurt offensive?

The PMCPA, which is overseen by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry, a trade group, has a strict code that says hospitality provided from an exhibition stand must be “subsistence only” and not the sort of treats that might induce attendees to visit the stand.

This means that companies should restrict their handouts to non-alcoholic beverages — such as tea, coffee, and water — and sweets, biscuits, or fruit. But hot dogs, ice cream, and waffles are a no-no. Yogurt is apparently similar enough to ice cream to warrant concern.

For its part, Mylan argued that frozen yogurt was listed as one of the goodies in a catering brochure for the convention. The drug maker also maintained that its booth did not advertise that yogurt was available or solicit passersby to enjoy a cup.

The company further explained that yogurt was on its menu in order “to provide a healthy and balanced alternative to sweets or biscuits, and the costs did not exceed the level which the recipients would normally adopt when paying for themselves,” according to the PMCPA report.

Nonetheless, the PMCPA ruled that Mylan breached the industry code.

Companies must be “mindful of the impression created by its activities; perception and cost were important factors when deciding whether subsistence was appropriate. In the panel’s view, the availability of frozen yogurt from the Mylan stand went beyond the provision of subsistence and was contrary to the requirements of the code … High standards had not been maintained.”

This offense amounts to a public chastising, but is designed, of course, to serve as a notice to other drug makers that lines must not be crossed. Some may argue that yogurt is, indeed, healthier than a biscuit and the PMCPA is making too much of a fuss.

Such a view is understandable. Then again, lines must be drawn somewhere and the PMCPA does have a point. Some snacks and libations are more enticing than others. Perhaps this can be further debated over a cup of coffee. This, at least, is a safe choice.

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