The Executive Committee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has adopted a new marketing code to govern the pharmaceutical industry’s relationships with physicians and other healthcare professionals. The voluntary code will take effect on July 1.

"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."

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 offering "take-out" meals or meals to be eaten in the absence of a company representative – such as "dine and dash" programs – is inappropriate.

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.

The code also contains 10 frequently asked questions and answers to those questions. One question, for example, is whether golf balls and sports bags may be provided if they bear a company or product name. The answer: "No. Golf bags and sports bags, even if of minimal value, do not primarily entail a benefit to patients and are not primarily associated with the healthcare professional’s practice, even if they bear the name of a company or product."

PhRMA represents the country’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The industry invested more than $30 billion in 2001 in discovering and developing new medicines. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures.