Sep 01, 2005

AS PHARMA MOVES INTO A NEW PHASE, one can sense an added level of sophistication in how the industry and its suppliers handle the issues surrounding medical education meetings. In this issue, we look at some new threats and new solutions.

At the moment, the most worrisome element of medical education meetings has to do with OIG's requirement that physician consultants be paid at fair market value. A company that doesn't have a transparent, documented system for calculating FMV is in danger of being accused of fraud, since OIG doesn't explain what FMV is, or how to calculate and document payments. Fred Eaton and Yoram Levy of Polaris Management Partners fill the void, mapping a straightforward strategy companies can use to set speaker fees fairly and transparently—but flexibly.

Hotel chains and conference centers are finally catching on to changes in the medical education world and coming up with ways to better accommodate pharma's new needs. Reporter Diane West points out some important trends—from training on the PhRMA Code for hotel staffers to new menu choices that preserve a feel of excitement and luxury without raising red flags. (Don't miss the Arizona Biltmore's recipe for a scaled-down but still knockout shrimp martini.)

Even in a more-regulated environment, pharma companies need to pay attention to what doctors want in medical education. Reporter Judy Williams examines recent data on physician preferences. Some highlights: The live, face-to-face meeting is still preferred over online meetings—and OIG or no OIG, location still counts.

Finally, it's time for marketers to think hard about the other kind of med-ed event: conventions, which offer some unique advantage. Ray Altieri, of the exhibit-marketing and event-management firm, Poretta and Orr, argues the case for conventions, and explains a better way to assess their value to a marketing program. –Patrick Clinton, Editor-in-Chief

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