The Advanced Medical Technology Association has released an updated, stricter version of its http://www.advamed.org/ Code of Ethics on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals.

Under the new guidelines, which go into effect July 1, 2009, member companies are prohibited from providing gifts to healthcare professionals, including the noneducational, branded promotional items typically offered as booth giveaways at medical trade shows, such as pens, notebooks, and mugs. In an FAQ document that accompanies the code, AdvaMed specifies the companies may not raffle items during a trade show that are otherwise prohibited under the code for example, airline tickets.

Companies are allowed to provide occasional gifts that are of educational value for healthcare professionals or that benefit patients. These items should be valued at less than $100, with the exception of textbooks or anatomical models. Medical device starter kits or educational brochures are allowable, since they benefit patients, but scrubs and office supplies are not allowed, according to the FAQ.

It's also off-limits for companies to pay for any entertainment or recreational activities for physicians, such as sporting events, golf, and skiing.

Medical technology companies are permitted to provide training and education programs for healthcare professionals. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration mandates that companies train medical staff about the safe and effective use of products, the code states. Such events can be conducted in hotels or other meeting facilities, but the settings must be "conducive to the effective transmission of information." Companies may pay for attendees' travel expenses and provide modest meals and refreshments in connection with these programs, but it is not appropriate for companies to pay for participants' guests.

As for continuing medical education meetings, companies may provide grants, the code says, as long as the conference sponsor controls content, faculty selection, educational methods, and materials.

For more details, watch for the March/April issue of Medical Meetings.