IFPMA New Code of Practice Embraced by Biopharmaceutical R&D Industry

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Effective January 1, 2019, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) instituted a new Code of Practice. The new Code of Practice bans gifts and promotional aids for prescription medicines, wherever IFPMA member companies operate and also introduces a shift from a rules-based approach to a values-based approach, in an attempt to better guide business behaviors and interactions between IFPMA members and the healthcare community at large.

The new Code bans all promotional items related to prescription-only medications for healthcare professionals’ use in the office, including post-its, calendars, and similar “reminder” items with company or product logos. The only items that can be provided to healthcare professionals are company-branded pens or notepads to for the providers to take notes during a company-organized event. Promotional aids related to over-the-counter products with minimal value and quantity can still be given to healthcare providers if relevant to their practice.

The Code also added a new category of informational or educational items, covering gifts such as scientific books, journal subscriptions, or memory sticks with educational data. These items may be given to healthcare providers for their own education or the education of patients, as long as the items do not have independent value and product branding is not permitted.

The ban on gifts now includes the typical exceptions based on the custom of gifts to mark significant national, cultural or religious events (for example, mooncakes or condolence payments). This means those customary gifts are no longer acceptable under the IFPMA Code. This change brings the rest of the world in line with current European and US guidelines, while also reflecting the pharma industry’s commitment to the general concern that promotional items may trivialize the important, professional relationship that must exist between medical representatives and healthcare professionals. This relationship is based on the concept that mutual exchange ensures that the patient benefits from all sides sharing expertise and scientific knowledge, enabling the development and effective use of new medicinal products and vaccines.

While the 2019 Code still provides rules that drive compliance, IFPMA’s new Ethos (replacing the Guiding Principles) aims to go beyond that and seeks to instill a culture of ethics and integrity. Trust is at the center of the Ethos and the values of care, fairness, respect and honesty describe how the industry strives to achieve this trust. This new ethical framework is expected to guide business behaviors and interactions between IFPMA members and the healthcare community, irrespective of the circumstances.


“We are glad to see that the new pharma industry Code of Practice is value-based, this will lead to the right instinct to put the patient first. From a patient perspective, we support self-regulation for all healthcare professionals and industry. It is important that when they step into a doctor’s cabinet, patients know that they can trust that advice. We are happy to work with the Code and promote it” said Kawaldip Sehmi, CEO of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO).

“Trust is the life-blood of our industry, it is the “north star” for our behaviors. It’s not just what pharmaceutical innovation achieves that matters, but also how the industry goes about achieving it. Implementing the new and revised Code in full is about walking the talk, about earning our license to operate. We encourage doctors, pharmacists, nurses and patients to become aware of the updated ethical standards. The better our stakeholders understand our standards and hold us to account, the easier it will be for us to live-up to our commitments,” said Thomas Cueni, IFPMA Director-General.

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