Healthcare: At a Glance - European code of practice tightened

Has the revised code on the promotion of medicines finally been published?

The Standing Committee of European Doctors and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) last week made public updated guidelines on the way pharma PROs can promote products to the medical profession. The guidelines were agreed in March (PRWeek, 25 March) but have only now been published.

What are some of the specifics?

Pharma companies may continue to invite doctors to promotional events, but the purpose of such gatherings has to be clearly stated from the outset.

And what about those foreign trips?

The code says: 'The venue should be appropriate for the scientific purpose of the meeting, and should not involve travelling beyond what is needed'.

Which rules out jetting off to Hawaii...

In the majority of cases, yes. Also, doctors can have accommodation and travel costs paid, but spouses can't attend at the sponsors' expense, and 'sponsoring or organising of sporting or entertainment events is prohibited' for doctors while they are there.

So what went on before?

Responsible pharma companies wouldn't have dreamed of attempting to influence doctors by offering luxurious inducements. But many of these matters were not specifically addressed. Now the meaning of propriety has been spelled out for all.

How have the new rules gone down?

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has welcomed the changes.

Good. What else is there for PROs to ponder, then?

Well, it is now spelled out that a clinical trial's sponsor has to be disclosed to the patients recruited to the study. Also, physicians cannot receive payment or other benefits for referring patients to trials - but may receive compensation for the work they do in the trial, although this can't be linked to any expected result of the study. When giving presentations on trials, a doctor has to disclose his or her connections with all companies in the therapeutic field covered.

Does this only apply within Europe?

The declaration also applies for activities outside the European Union if doctors from EU member states are involved.

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