Medical education and communication company representatives who attended a Monaco focus group (see main story this page) had other issues on their minds:
- New international business
Non-U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies that don't fall under the Office of Inspector General guidance or other U.S. pharma rules are turning more and more to U.S.-based meeting managers for their programs outside of the United States. This could be a good new source of business for MECCs in the United States.
- Getting around the rules
Are pharma companies following the new guidelines issued by the OIG and PhRMA? They're still getting around them in a number of ways, said some participants. For example, presenters may be issued one first- or business-class airline ticket to get them to the meeting, which they then exchange for two coach tickets in order to bring along the spouse, said one participant. (Under the PhRMA code, spouses are not allowed to attend physician programs.) “Our company would never allow that,” countered another. “The only reason he gets the business-class ticket is so he will be fresh for the meeting. We wouldn't let him invalidate that reason by turning it in for two coach tickets.”
- Procurement and preferred vendors
This is becoming a big issue for some, but not all, of the focus group participants. “It's a relatively new thing for us,” said one participant who's just beginning the process of becoming a preferred vendor for pharma clients. “The procurement department was very involved in the process of our becoming a preferred vendor for two pharma companies,” said another. But, said one participant, one client company said they “didn't want to go there, because they said they wanted to be able to come to us for the quality of service we provide, not because procurement says they have to.” Now that procurement departments have taken control over meeting spend in so many companies, it's important that MECCs and other outside vendors don't cut out the company's meetings department. “Work with the meeting department,” said one person. “Whatever you do, don't go around them and go directly to procurement.”
For more about preferred-vendor agreements see “Cost Control, Compliance Control,” page 63.