What should medical meeting planners do if one of their attendees reports that an exhibit or sponsor has violated the new Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals? That issue was a hot topic during a special session for medical meeting planners at last month’s Professional Convention Management Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

Session panelist Ann Kaplan, assistant general counsel at PhRMA, informed the packed room that the code is voluntary and that there are no “code police” who are going to storm the meeting if there is an infraction.

What often happens, said session moderator Gregg Talley, president and CEO of Talley Management Co., is that people report infractions to meeting planners. About a dozen people in the room concurred, saying they have had people report pharmaceutical company infractions to them at meetings. “What do we do?” Talley asked.

"You are not the police," said Kaplan. Instead, planners should tell that person to report the violation to the company’s compliance officer. A list of companies that have signed on to the code, with their compliance officers' contact info, is available at PhRMA's Web site.

Another source of frustration for medical meeting professionals is that the code has gray areas regarding gifts, meals, and venues. When companies interpret the rules differently, there are no concrete standards to help meeting planners ascertain what is in compliance and what’s not. “It’s frustrating for us,” said Talley. “But it’s the reality we are dealing with.”

Read our September/October 2008 cover story “New PhRMA Code: the Impact on Medical Meetings” for more about the revised PhRMA Code, and watch for the March/April 2009 issue of Medical Meetings for further developments.