Medical device and IVD companies subscribing to the Eucomed or counterpart national business ethics Codes will have to start preparations to cease direct sponsorship of healthcare professionals (HCPs) to third party medical congresses. Companies will need to consider if and how they will switch to indirect sponsorship if they intend to continue their support for HCPs’ continuing medical education (CME) in the devices and IVD sectors.

This step change for the funding of CME follows MedTech Europe’s1 October 2014 recommendation to its member trade associations and companies that they completely phase out direct sponsorship of HCPs by no later than January 2018. In practice, this will mean affected companies will cease all direct payments for some or all of the travel, lodging and conference registration fees for European HCPs attending third party medical congresses. This is currently a signiicant part of industry’s ongoing support for HCP CME the ultimate aim of which is to promote improved outcomes for patients. Those companies intent on continuing CME support will instead have to arrange indirect sponsorship, for example via grants to medical societies, hospitals, conference organisers or possibly governmental bodies who will themselves then allocate the funds to pay certain expenses of HCPs to attend CME conferences.

The planned switch from directly sponsored medical congresses (some of which have been criticised as ‘vanity meetings’ by the UK criminal appeal court) to indirect sponsorship represents the latest evolution of MedTech’s commitment to business integrity and builds on the Eucomed conference vetting system, which is now binding upon member companies for European medical congresses. It marks a deinite divergence from the course taken by the European pharmaceutical industry which continues to directly sponsor individual HCPs’ attendance and other costs in connection with medical congresses. Of course, indirect sponsorship carries its own potential compliance risks. Companies will therefore need to carefully appraise these risks when implementing indirect sponsorship programmes. They will also have to take account of the detailed compliance guidelines for indirect sponsorship which MedTech will develop as part of its current review of its Code of Ethical Business Practice.