Medicines Australia 18th Code of Conduct introduces phased-in transparency reporting measures

The 18th Medicines Australia Code of Conduct ("Code") has introduced transparency reporting requirements.

On 1 October 2015, the first phase in transparency reporting requirements for company members of Medicines Australia commenced, mandating disclosure of transfers of value to individual healthcare professionals in specific circumstances. 

The relevant activities which require the company to report include:

  • consulting fees and/or speaking fees;  
  • sponsorship of a healthcare professional to attend an educational event: airfares, accommodation and/or registration fees (whether held within or outside Australia);  
  • fees paid to healthcare professional consultants in Australia, or to their employers on their behalf, for specific services rendered by them: consulting fees, accommodation and airfares (whether within or outside Australia);  
  • fees paid to healthcare professionals in their role as Advisory Board members: sitting fees, accommodation and airfares (whether within or outside Australia);  
  • fees paid to healthcare professionals for the purpose of market research only where the identity of the healthcare professional is known to the company; and  
  • payment of an educational grant or sponsorship to a specific healthcare professional.

There are specific details which must be included in a report, including but not limited to the date of the event or provision of service; the amount of the payment or transfer of value, divided into (where relevant) registration fees, travel and accommodation, and fees for service; the healthcare professional’s name; and the type of healthcare professional (i.e. medical practitioner, pharmacist, nurse practitioner).  Companies must provide healthcare professionals for whom they have collected information about payments and transfers of value the opportunity to review and submit corrections to the information.  If a healthcare professional does not agree to the information being disclosed with their name, the expenditure will be reported in aggregate with the number of healthcare professionals it relates to.

The reporting cycle is a six monthly cycle, except for the initial report, which would cover seven months from 1 October 2015 to 30 April 2016.  The report must be published within 4 months following the end of each reporting period.  Companies must publish the data about payments and transfers of value on companies’ own websites. Medicines Australia will provide hyperlinks from its website to each Member company’s report.

Member companies of Medicines Australia need to ensure they have appropriate data capture and record keeping to meet these new obligations. Non-members of Medicines Australia which are not subject to the transparency reporting measures should be aware that the conduct caught by these reporting measures could still give rise to allegations of corrupt conduct and they should consider maintaining clear and accurate records of any such transfers of value to healthcare professionals. 

Senate inquiry into foreign bribery

On 24 June 2015, the Australian Senate referred an inquiry into foreign bribery to the Senate Economics References Committee. The terms of reference are broad, and appear designed to lay out reform options to strengthen the enforcement of Australia’s foreign bribery laws, which has been routinely criticised for under-enforcement. Of particular interest is the Committee’s consideration of:

  • the resourcing, effectiveness and structure of Commonwealth agencies and statutory bodies to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute under the legislation, including cooperation between bodies;  
  • the range of offences available for prosecution, with consideration of:  
    • potential expansion of Australia’s laws to include false accounting along the lines of  the books and records head in the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;  
    • increased focus on the offence of failure to create a corporate culture of compliance and associated liability of directors and senior managers who do not implement a corporate culture of compliance;  
    • liability of parent companies for subsidiaries and intermediaries, including joint ventures;  
    • the ongoing need for the limited facilitation payments defence; and  
  • potential for formalising measures to encourage self-reporting, such as civil resolutions, settlements, negotiations, plea bargains, enforceable undertakings and deferred prosecution agreements.

The Senate Committee will report by 1 July 2016.