Be Our Guest - Pharmaceutical Executive


Be Our Guest
From training employees to forgoing lobster tail, hotels are putting the PhRMA Code on their menus.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Where There's a Pill, There's a Way

Going forward, it's important for pharma meeting planners to remember that PhRMA Code compliance extends beyond just choosing destinations without the word "resort" in the title, or eliminating golf from the agenda. Indeed, at least one pharma company is finding a way to end-run the marketing code and infiltrate medical meetings with questionable marketing tactics. One freelance medical journalist told Pharmaceutical Executive she was offered $5,000 by a pharmaceutical company if she agreed to attend sessions about their cancer drug during an annual oncologists meeting and then pitch stories to publications she wrote for on a regular basis.

"I really couldn't see pitching a story on just this drug alone," says the journalist, who asked that her name be withheld. "I could have written about it in a broader story about new approaches to cancer. However, my editors have a policy to not accept such pieces and understandably so. Covering a meeting for a pharmaceutical company, then turning around and pitching stories to publications for pay creates a huge conflict of interest for the reporter and can ruin well-established working relationships. It's unethical on the pharmaceutical company's part to try and plant journalists at their own meetings. It's even more of a conundrum when a journalist actually accepts this arrangement and tries to pass off these stories as something they are covering on their own without pharmaceutical company influence. Unfortunately, I know people who accept these arrangements all the time."

When Pharm Exec brought this practice to their attention, both Lassman and Trewitt of PhRMA said they had not heard of it but agreed it would be something they'd investigate upon further confirmation.

Overall, as for marketing activities at hotels and resorts, Lassman says the voluntary three-year-old PhRMA honor system is a success. "There's nothing wrong with marketing, even very forceful, strong marketing, but it should be focused on patients and not extraneous factors like entertainment," he says. Medical meetings "need to focus and provide information to physicians."

Diane West is a freelancer writer covering the health and medical fields. She can be reached at


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