PhRMA adopts new gift guidelines

June 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

The executive committee of the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has unanimously adopted a new marketing code to govern the pharmaceutical industry's relationships with physicians and other healthcare professionals.

The executive committee of the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has unanimously adopted a new marketing code to govern the pharmaceutical industry's relationships with physicians and other healthcare professionals.

"The new code makes it crystal clear that the interactions of company sales representatives with healthcare professionals are to benefit patients and enhance the practice of medicine," said PhRMA President Alan F. Holmer. "It explicitly spells out that all interactions should be focused on informing healthcare professionals about products, providing scientific and educational information, and supporting medical research and education."

No more free lunch

The PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals permits informational presentations and discussions - that provide valuable scientific and educational benefits - by industry representatives and others speaking on behalf of a company. The code says, "In connection with such presentations and discussions, meals (but no entertainment/recreational events) may be offered so long as they: (a) are modest as judged by local standards; and (b) occur in a venue and manner conducive to informational communication and provide scientific or educational value." Inclusion of a healthcare professional's spouse or other guests is not appropriate, and conducting a "dine and dash" or simply dropping off a lunch in a doctor's office will not be allowed.

The code provides that token consulting or advisory arrangements should not be used to justify compensating healthcare professionals for their time or their travel, lodging and other out-of-pocket expenses.

In addition, the code specifies that items primarily for the benefit of patients may be offered to healthcare professionals if they are not of substantial value ($100 or less). "For example," the code states, "an anatomical model for use in an examination room primarily involves a patient benefit, whereas a VCR or CD player does not."

The new code also provides that no grants, scholarships, subsidies, support, consulting contracts, or educational or practice-related items should be provided or offered to a healthcare professional in exchange for prescribing products or for a commitment to continue prescribing products. "Nothing should be offered or provided in a manner or on conditions that would interfere with the independence of a healthcare professional's prescribing practices," the code states.

AMA approval

The adoption of the code has received support from the Chicago-based American Medical Association, which recently launched a campaign to make doctors aware of the original gift-giving guidelines that were introduced in 1990. "The American Medical Association is pleased that the PhRMA is adopting new guidelines designed to curb inappropriate pharmaceutical marketing practices aimed at physicians," said Timothy T. Flaherty, chair of the AMA's board of trustees. "The new guidelines appear to be consistent with long-standing AMA ethical guidelines and make it clear that interaction between drug reps and doctors needs to focus on sharing relevant information to enhance patient care."

The new guidelines will take effect on July 1, 2002. PR

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