"Since the bureau was established over forty years ago, there's been a consistent trend of medical meetings," Viscasilllas
says. And that's really no surprise, considering that 14 out of the top 20 medications consumed in the US mainland are manufactured
on the island. The same goes for medical device companies, dozens of which have offices in Puerto Rico. That history, plus
the fact that the convention center will eventually be able to accommodate an estimated 10,000 visitors, can only help make
the case for larger, regional (and some national and international) meetings of medical specialty societies and healthcare
"We bring doctors and surgeons here from all over the world to train them on our minimally invasive surgery technology," says
Bartolome Gamundi, senior vice president and general manager of electronic and sports medicine manufacturing for Electro-Biology,
one of those medical device companies in San Juan. He says that the convention center will add value to the kind of meetings
that they typically hold because it will be able to attract larger groups.
That may be true, but there's still the challenge of bringing doctors to an island. The concern is that companies might appear
to be hosting them for recreation, which, of course, can be construed as inducement. But Gamundi, whose company is a member
of the medical device trade organization AdvaMed, feels confident that companies who are careful can send a clear message
that their intentions are to invite doctors for training and education only not for a romp on the beach.
He foresees a time when the convention center might facilitate a gathering of Electro-Biology personnel from its affiliates
around the world. "It's a good opportunity to bring regional meetings to the island," he says. "Because exporting products
is not only about goods, it's about knowledge. There's enough talent in Puerto Rico in our doctors and scientists that we
can bring others here to share knowledge."
Starry night At the Sol Meliá Paradisus Puerto Rico resort, even the blue skies are included.
As a board member of the PRCB, Gamundi says that to compete with the myriad other places in the world that have convention
centers, it will be a matter of applying creativity and innovation to the promotional effort. "We must establish a value-add,
which is excellent service, the fact that we are bilingual, have good hospitals, and broad representation of the pharma and
medical device companies from around the world," he says.
Medical Community Outreach
Further supporting the prediction that pharma will be spending more time in Puerto Rico is PRCB's multi-faceted approach to
reaching out to the global medical community. And if they're successful, pharma participation and sponsorship won't be far
Meeting by the sea Can groups get work accomplished on the beach? You never know.
Viscasillas says the vast majority of business that PRCB generates comes from the mainland. Each regional office—New York,
Chicago, Washington, Miami and San Juan—has a pharma-industry specialist in the corporate business territory. PRCB's Ambassadors
Program asks local healthcare professionals who are affiliated with Puerto Rico's medical schools to use their contacts on
the mainland to help attract medical meetings business to the island.
"One of our greatest assets is our doctors working in academia who are very involved in national associations on the mainland,"
They've already found success: Twice, the American College of Cardiology has held it's International Conference in San Juan.
Mind the Code
Wondering if these associations worry about the guidelines? The PRCB is sensitive to the issues, which is forcing them to
think of ways to minimize the quid pro quo perception of doctors traveling to an island destination. But there hasn't been
an impact on business yet, says Viscasillas.
The Paradisus' Hernandez echoes the assessment that companies are still in the business of hosting physician meetings in Puerto
Rico, primarily because most of them come from Latin America and Europe, where there is less pressure from PhRMA and AdvaMed
Codes. Besides doctors, she says the resort regularly accommodates incentive trips and training meetings for pharma sales