The look ofwill continue to change. Starting in January 2009, revisions to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals will take effect.
Overall, the new code will further separate pharmaceutical sales and marketing functions from the education offices that provide grants to support certified continuing medical education. The new code seems to take into account the significant differences between CME programs and all other meetings supported by pharmaceutical companies.
No More Notepads?
But for those managing or marketing meetings, the updated code can be confusing. For example, a critical change is the code states that noneducational and practice-related items, such as pens and notepads with company or product logos, should not be offered to healthcare professionals.
The Q&A section of the new PhRMA Code goes further, stating that pens, clipboards, and other items with or without company logos should not be provided to healthcare professionals. The explanation continues: “These same guidelines apply with regard to the distribution of items to healthcare professionals at third-party scientific and educational conferences or professional meetings.”
So, are conference bags, pens, and notepads prohibited? It seems to depend on who distributes the items and the purpose for distributing them.
The code clearly states that pharmaceutical company employees should not provide pens, notepads, clipboards, and similar items directly to healthcare professionals. Any items with company or product logos “may foster misperceptions that company interactions with healthcare professionals are not based on informing them about medical and scientific issues.”
But when a conference is being managed by a CME provider, the code seems to allow corporate sponsorship of meals or other items, such as conference bags — as long as the company does not control how the provider spends the funding. The CME provider is allowed to publicize the list of companies providing a certain level of support — for example, the list of bronze or platinum sponsors.
Lose the Logos
To stay in safe territory, CME meeting managers should not print any product or company logos on bags or other items. Instead, conference items should brand the overall event. Funds from corporate sponsorships can help defray the cost of these items. Sponsors can be recognized at the event or in program materials, but there should be no company-directed promotional items of any kind.
While you implement changes to meet the new PhRMA Code requirements, don't forget current rules that address pharmaceutical support of non-CME and some CME meetings. In short, this generally means no meetings at resort properties, no golf or other entertainment, no recreational items, and no spouses at company-funded dinners.
Brandy G. Lewis, CMP, CCMEP, is vice president of Global Education Group in Littleton, Colo. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.