AT A GLANCE: Pharma conference puts meetings in spotlight

Is this a new conference?
Not exactly. The organiser, Pharma 360, is billing it as a free ‘healthcare meetings workshop’ in central London next Friday (16 March). It’s about medical education rather than media relations and is based on the premise that the hospitality environment has fundamentally changed in light of new restrictions on pharma marketing and PR.

You mean, no more freebies?
That’s a rather blunt way of putting it but, yes, the days of business-class trips to Bermuda to hear about a drug’s efficacy do seem to be over. So the various workshop sessions will explore how to maximise relationship-building opportunities while not falling foul of the ABPI Code of Practice.

Who’s going to be there?
Attendees from PR agencies such as Huntsworth Health and pharma companies including AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Schering-Plough. Topics under discussion range from compliance with the code to the ways in which the hotel industry is responding to restrictions on venues. Aurora Communications joint MDs Neil Crump and Claire Eldridge are running a session on the fine line between education and influence in meetings for doctors. ‘There’s got to be something you can teach them: data, market research, studies,’ says Eldridge.

Remind me of some of the key code restrictions?
There is a veto on venues that are ‘renowned for their entertainment facilities’, which means taking doctors to a football stadium for a meeting on matchday would probably be seen as a no-no. You also can’t meet in ‘deluxe’ hotels any more. To illustrate the point, next week’s workshop is being held in serviced offices – an ‘ABPI-compliant venue’, the organiser proudly points out. And the hospitality must not cost more than delegates would normally expect to pay themselves.

But don’t some GPs earn more than £100,000?
Well, they don’t do badly. It’s fair to say that the venue has to be nice enough to keep everyone there – after all, networking is one of the benefits for any event host. It won’t do the client any good if a major delegate has sloped away to the local pub.

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