Next year health care professionals (HCP) may have a harder time finding something to write with as the result of a revised PhRMA Code on interactions with health care professionals just issued by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry's trade association. The Code will become effective in January 2009.

This recent update to the voluntary Code asks member CEOs and Compliance Officers to certify each year that they have processes in place to comply with the Code. It recommends that companies periodically obtain (once every three years) external verification of compliance and that companies have appropriate processes in place to enhance compliance. The PhRMA Web site will post a list of all companies which pledge to follow the Code and publish the status of each company's annual certification.

Some of the key changes to note are: 

  • The Code will now prohibit distribution of non-educational items (such as pens, mugs and other "reminder" objects which typically display a company or product logo) to health care providers and their staff. There is no de minimis exception.
  • The Code will prohibit company sales representatives from providing restaurant meals to HCPs. Occasional modest meals provided in an in-office or in-hospital setting in conjunction with informational presentations will continue to be allowed.
  • The Code restates that companies should not provide recreational or entertainment events to HCPs and makes clear that this rule also applies to consultant meetings.
  • The Code states that companies should establish caps on the total annual compensation paid a HCP for speaking arrangements and develop policies for appropriate use of speakers.
  • The Code includes principles regarding the use of non-patient identified prescriber data.
  • The Code requires member companies to train representatives who visit HCPs on laws, regulations and industry codes of practice that affect interactions with HCPs, assess compliance and take appropriate action in cases of failure to comply. 
  • The Code, in an effort to ensure independence of continuing medical education (CME), states that CME grant-making functions should be separate from sales and marketing departments and that objective criteria should be developed to support such grant decisions.

In related news, last month the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) issued for comment a proposal that, if adopted, would end all commercial support of CME.

To view the proposal, please click here.

Comments on the proposal may be submitted to the ACCME through August 11, 2008 by clicking here.