Healthcare: At a Glance - European pharma code of practice

Are you referring to the EFPIA code?

That's right. The Brussels-based European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) says it has revised its guidelines on the way in which the pharmaceutical industry can promote products to medical professionals.

And how have they been revised?

They're not saying - at least not until June. 'We have agreed them but not published them,' says an EFPIA spokesman.

But it will have clear implications for PR?

It's pretty fair to assume that will be the case, not least since increased recent media interest has made this a hot topic. Few pharmaceutical companies are solely UK operators, so the Europe-wide code, in addition to the ABPI's own, will be of great interest. And the ABPI tells us a recent report saying that it is opposing parts of the new guidelines is wrong. 'We contributed to the drawing up of a European code and we fully support it,' a spokesman says.

Well, it would say that, wouldn't it?

Perhaps. But the EFPIA spokesman is saying the same thing. And he also mentions that the new European code is set to be tougher than the previous one. 'It has teeth,' he insists. 'There are tough sanctions because that is what companies want.' The reason EFPIA is not publishing it until the summer is 'to give member companies some time to adapt'.

Intriguing. So no more, say, trips for doctors to exotic locations for the media to be sceptical about?

Ah, there's the rub. There is still, shall we say, a feeling that doctors will be less likely to travel to, for example, a one-star hotel in, say, the North-East than a three-star one somewhere warmer.

Isn't this all a bit confusing?

You mean, a code with teeth on the one hand and a general acceptance on the other that doctors need incentives in return for their time? Yes, the words 'continued grey area' would appear appropriate.

Isn't the ABPI also reviewing its own code?

Public consultation finished on 11 March and it is now talking to individual stakeholders about their thoughts. Expect the new-look code by the end of 2005.

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