Navigating the Sea of Global Regulatory Changes
The centralized approach companies have adopted has helped meeting planners confront frequent and various regulatory changes.
In the United States alone, close to two dozen states either have regulations in place or are discussing new regulations that
will affect meeting planners and their ability to attract attendees.
Originally, landmark regulatory changes—such as the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's Compliance
Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, published in 2003—primarily affected marketing and medical affairs teams. But in
light of recent pharmaceutical litigation, federal and state regulations have become even stricter to discourage potentially
unethical practices. As a result, virtually every organizational function now has felt the effects of compliance-related issues.
Cutting Edge Information asked pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies to rate the results of tighter
compliance on their meeting planning departments.
Survey responses show that recent regulations have affected companies differently, most likely based on what they were doing
before the new regulations went into effect. Twenty-seven percent of respondents agree that new regulations have limited their
site selection, but their site selection is only limited based on where they were previously meeting. For example, as long
as a company had already avoided scheduling meetings at golf resorts, new regulations from PhRMA prohibiting meetings at golf
resorts would not affect the company's future site selection. (See figure 3)
Doctors Shy Away From Meetings
Physician-spend tracking emerged as a relatively new challenge for meeting planners. In fact, 41 percent of companies find
the regulations requiring them to track spend have greatly influenced their meeting planning, making it the most frequent
effect of recent regulations. Since each governing body requires a unique set of numbers, tracking physician spend can demand
an immense amount of meeting planners' attention.
This leads into the second most frequent result: It has become more difficult to attract physicians. Thirty-six percent of
meeting planning executives agree that recent regulations have led to physicians feeling reluctant to attend meetings. Physicians
worry that their earnings will become public knowledge. They are afraid the public will decide that doctors are no longer
trustworthy because of the misperception that they participate in kickbacks, or may have received gifts from pharmaceutical
companies. Moreover, it seems some physicians were previously not aware that gifts from pharmaceutical companies might have
been influencing their prescribing habits. Lastly, in states that require companies to disclose how much they spend on specific
physicians, doctors are opting out of meetings to keep their financial information private. These are all issues that multiple departments within these companies must face.
The Belt Tightens
From a global perspective, most regulatory bodies are leaning toward implementing stricter guidelines for physician attendance
at meetings. Furthermore, physicians are expressing hesitancy in attending industry meetings for a number of reasons, namely:
- Physicians do not want to leave their practices for an extended period of time
- Physicians are discouraged by recent laws that require companies to report how much they spend on physician-related activities
- Companies no longer pay for physicians' families to join them when they travel, thus disincentivizing physicians from attending.
With regulatory bodies and the press proclaiming that doctors have become unwitting drones for pharmaceutical companies, doctors
have understandably been more cautious in choosing the meetings that they attend. To a degree, they are concerned about poor
publicity. But by and large, physicians are voicing greater concerns for how their relationships with pharmaceutical companies
may be affecting their prescribing habits. Furthermore, for the past 10 years, the number of annual meetings has skyrocketed,
and companies are competing with each other for the same physician enrollment. Physicians can only attend so many meetings
in any given year, taking time away from their practice or research lab. They already have enough responsibilities taking
up valuable time, and some are unsure whether attending another meeting is worthwhile. Many doctors believe that the cost
outweighs the benefits, and therefore prefer not to attend many, if any, meetings.