The Multinational Monitor

MAY 1982 - VOLUME 3 - NUMBER 5

G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Wyeth's Record in Asia

Wyeth Nutritionals is "one of the worst" violators of the World Health Organization's marketing code for infant formula, says Doug Clement, coordinator of the Infant Formula Action Coalition's international program, and a staffer on the International Baby Food Action Network, comprised of about 40 organizations in 55 countries.

Wyeth has not agreed to abide by the World Health Organization's code prohibiting aggressive marketing of the milk substitute.

"I just came back from two months of research in Asia, Clement says, "and I was impresssed by [Wyeth's] disregard for the code's guidelines."

Wyeth, the "second largest company in overall exports" of infant formula, says Clement, has committed a number of violations of the World Health Organization's code:

  • Free samples: Wyeth is a "major supplier of free samples to hospitals in Bangkok (Thailand), Manila, (Philippines) and Penang (Malaysia)," Clement claims. "I interviewed a poor woman in Manila just as she was leaving a hospital," says Clement. She was "holding a can of Wyeth's S 26 formula." Sometimes, he adds, "a mother who delivers a baby in a hospital gets a free sample and a business reply card," with which to request a followup visit by a company representative.
  • Posters: In the Philippines and Malaysia, says Clement, Wyeth has "new posters in hospitals that are clearly in violation of the code, because they were advertising brand names."
  • Labels and leaflets: The company's "labels and instructional literature are inadequate," says Clement. "There are not sufficient warnings of potential hazards of bottle feeding, nor [statements] on the advantages of breast feeding."
  • Milk Nurses: "In Malaysia and Singapore," Clement alleges, Wyeth "employs milk nurses to promote their product." And in the Philippines, Wyeth representatives are "trying to promote to midwives."
  • Commissions: "In the Philippines, Wyeth employs medical representatives who are paid on the basis of commission and quotas," says Clement. "I interviewed lower level employees, that's how I learned that Wyeth people were paid on commission."

Clement claims, moreover, that in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, Wyeth has been "aggressively lobbying the governments and the ministries to adopt national legislation which is substantially weaker than the World Health Organization code."

Wyeth's vice president for corporate and government affairs, Steven Bauer, when informed of Clement's charges, said that "when they send us the important facts and documentation, we will examine them carefully." Wyeth adheres to policies that are "entirely appropriate," in regards to product samples, promotional material, and professional representatives, Bauer said.

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