A study released at the Healthcare Convention Exhibitors Association in June found that, despite all the recent regulation around pharmaceutical marketing, including the restrictions on giveaways in the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, physicians still value information they gather on the trade-show floor.

In fact, according to a white paper by the Westborough, Mass.-based strategic exhibit company Marketech, the PhRMA code has had a “minimal impact on visitation to exhibits at medical meetings.” The PhRMA code was originally developed in 2002; an updated version that banned giveaways of noneducational products by pharma companies on the show floor as well as in physicians' workplaces (among other restrictions), went into effect in January of this year.

In the first phase of the study, conducted last fall at six major healthcare conventions covering therapeutic disciplines including immunology, osteopathy, thoracic surgery, general practice, and hematology, Marketech surveyed 856 healthcare professionals to find out how they felt about the code's restrictions before they went into effect. Seventy-eight percent were adamant that promotional giveaways did not affect their prescribing or recommending habits; and a full three-quarters said they didn't intend to change their plans to visit exhibits once the gifts were banned from booths.

The second phase of the study, in which Marketech surveyed 550 healthcare professionals at four conferences in primary care, diabetes, endocrinology, and clinical oncology in the first six months of this year, found that almost 86 percent had not changed their trade-show behavior because of the new PhRMA code restrictions. However, 14 percent said that the restrictions had made a difference. Another 14 percent weren't even aware of the code's existence when they were surveyed.

Not surprisingly, the HCPs generally weren't happy with the new code's restrictions, calling them “crazy” and saying, “I don't come here for gifts.” Some did approve of the new code. One provider commented, “I think it's good, because I'm sure some people lose sight of what's important. (Although I could use a really good pen.)”

The white paper also said that, while the study didn't include HCPs' perceptions of the effect the Advamed Code would have on their behavior when it became effective July 1, 2009, the assumption is that the results would be similar.

75%
of survey respondents said the PhRMA code's restriction on giveaways would not affect their decision to visit a specific exhibit in fall 2008

85.8%
of survey respondents, when polled in the first six months of the code's implementation, said that changes in the PhRMA code has not affected their visitation to exhibits at medical conventions.

Source: Marketech