Legal and Ethical Guidelines

BHBIA Legal and Ethical Guidelines for Healthcare Market Research: Your essential guide

The UPDATED (September 2023) BHBIA Legal and Ethical Guidelines are now available.

Click on the DOWNLOADS link on the right hand side of this web page to view/download your copy.

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Key changes to the Guidelines - September 2023:

You will find details of the September changes on page 4 of the updated Guidelines within the ‘Changes at a glance’ section. They are also marked with coloured arrows throughout the document. 

The online Legal and Ethical Guidelines for Market Researchers and Guidance for reviewing/approving market research materials programmes have been updated in line with the latest Guidelines (see links on the right hand side of this page).

A brief summary of what’s changed is outlined below:

Section E2.4 - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

New guidance: 

When writing a proposal, you should address Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in relation to your MR project, by (a) considering who needs to be included in your sample to reflect the population of respondents being researched, (b) how to make your research accessible and inclusive, (c) considering the purpose for which you are collecting information in relation to this and (d) how this might impact your chosen methodology and the feasibility of the project. The MRS has some guidance available at MRS_Diversity&InclusionGuidance_Sampling_0123.pdf .

Section G5 - Social Media

New guidance:

  • Use of Social Media

Care must be taken when you are conducting market research on behalf of a Pharmaceutical Company and utilising social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram e.g., for recruitment. As you are working on behalf of a Pharma Company, they are responsible for anything you post. Therefore, you need to ensure that anything you post on social media has been approved by the company. Ensure that comments on posts are disabled to remove the need to monitor for adverse events being reported.

Practical examples incorporated into the Guidelines:

The Guidelines include around 60 practical examples in the form of questions and answers (Q&As) – these are marked by a question mark within an orange circle – look out for this symbol and click to open the examples.

  • By combining these examples within the Guidelines, we hope we have made it easier for you to understand the practical impact of the laws and regulations;
  • You’ll find the examples alongside the relevant section of the Guidelines; 
  • They are quick to access and easy to read;
  • The questions are based on real-life members’ enquiries and issues;
  • The content reflects commissioning client, market research and fieldwork agency perspectives;
  • There is no longer the need for a separate FAQ resource – so you have a ‘one stop shop’ for your legal and ethical guidelines needs (Appendix N provides a full list of all the questions that are now covered by the practical examples).

Thanks to all members of the Ethics & Compliance Committee for contributing to the new format (introduced in June 2020).

About the Guidelines generally:

The BHBIA Legal and Ethical Guidelines include everything you need, in one place, to keep your market research project running smoothly from a legal and ethical point of view - saving you time and trouble.

  • Legal do’s and don’ts
  • Data protection unravelled (GDPR / UK Data Protection Act 2018 requirements are built in throughout)
  • Best practice recommendations
  • Step-by-step through a project (This makes the Guidelines easy to navigate, and you can also search on key words for the information you need)
  • Terms made easy
  • Ready-to-use forms

The Guidelines are updated every year, and changes since the previous version are clearly indicated so that you can see what’s new.  

Other useful resources:

For your convenience the pro formas (found in the appendix section of the Legal and Ethical Guidelines) are also available in word format for ease of use.

View details / Download Pro Formas

If you have a query about the Guidelines - or any legal or ethical query about UK healthcare market research that's not answered in the Guidelines - please use the guidelines Online Enquiries service (full BHBIA members only) - you will need to be logged in to access the form.  

Submit a Guidelines Query

This is covered separately within the specific ABPI/ BHBIA Guidance notes on collecting adverse events, product complaints and special reporting situations during market research. We cross reference this in the Guidelines rather than repeating information from it. 

View the AE/PC/SRS Guidance

The BHBIA provides a separate Legal and Ethical Guidelines for Healthcare Data Analytics document.

This provides clear guidance on the legal and ethical implications of using secondary data for business intelligence purposes such as database building, market research or customer relationship management.

View the Data Analytics Guidelines