Tracking Meetings in Troubled Times - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Tracking Meetings in Troubled Times
Scrutiny of pharmaceutical promotion and gifts to practitioners has intensified, with more states enacting reporting requirements. In May, the federal government passed the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. What kind of impact is all this having on meetings and physician attendance?

Pharmaceutical Executive


Impact of Gift-Disclosure Legislation

Over the last few years, scrutiny of pharmaceutical promotion and gifts to practitioners has intensified; in response, some states have required the reporting of physician gifts from drug and medical device companies. In addition, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act was passed as part of the larger healthcare reform legislation in May 2010. The Sunshine Act requires pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to disclose payments made to physicians. While the federal law does not supersede existing state laws, it requires disclosure of individual payments of $10 or more or aggregate payments to a physician of $100 or more in a given year. This disclosure is made to the Department of Health and Human Services, with the names of companies and physicians posted on a public website.

Currently six states have gift-disclosure laws, with the minimum reporting value ranging from $10 to $100. The 2009-2010 legislative sessions saw 11 additional states propose laws or regulations relating to gift disclosure or bans. In response to the pending legislation and reality of public disclosure of this information, both the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have instituted voluntary guidelines advising physicians not to accept, and companies not to provide, gifts in excess of $100, and that all gifts should be educational.


Figure 2: Percent of Events Offering Honoraria
Historically, it wasn't uncommon for physicians (and in some cases their families) to be taken to luxurious meeting places and restaurants for events as well as receive gifts for their attendance. When PhRMA issued gift-giving guidelines in the early 2000s, major shifts in honoraria and event locations took place. Subsequently, there have been some noticeable changes in the characteristics of events and physician participation.


Figure 3: How Gift Disclosure Regulations Have Affected Physicians’ Attendance at Meetings – July 2010
The percentage of events where no honorarium/incentive was offered increased from about 5 percent in the 12 months ended May 2006 to more than 20 percent in the 12 months ended May 2010. Even presentation of meals/food declined from 77 percent to 66 percent of events over the same period (see Figure 2).


Figure 4: Online Event Growth
So, how do these new regulations affect doctors? In a recent SDI poll of 300 physicians, more than half reported that there has been no change in their event attendance, while 40 percent reported that they have decreased their attendance as a result of gift-disclosure regulations (see Figure 4).


Online Events Growing
With the hurdles imposed by gift-giving restrictions, along with the stormy economic climate, pharmaceutical companies increasingly have turned to a more cost-effective approach: online events (see sidebar). Expect the industry to continue to adapt, as the impact of healthcare reform grows clearer.

Who's Sponsoring Online Then?

Interestingly, the top sponsors of online meetings differ from those supporting in-person events. In the 12 months ended May 2010, Pfizer held the most online events, followed by Merck, Shire, GlaxoSmithKline, and Forest. Pfizer has dramatically increased its focus in this area over the last few years. Compared with the 12 months ended May 2009, Pfizer online events rose 60 percent.

Merck has been one of the trailblazers in e-promotion over the last few years but has decreased its participation in the most recent 12 months. Online events sponsored by Merck fell 22 percent in the year ended May 2010. Shire, GlaxoSmithKline, and Forest all increased their e-promotion activity with 35 percent, 6 percent, and 68 percent more online events, respectively, in the 12 months ended May 2010.

The most-promoted pro- duct online was Merck's Singulair, with just over 13,000 events. Shire's Vyvanse followed with almost 12,000. Pfizer's Pristiq, Merck's Januvia, and Pfizer's Celebrex completed the top five drugs promoted through online events.

Kelly Sborlini is Vice President, SDI, Audits & Media Innovations. She can be reached at


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