PhRMA Announces Updated Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionals – Changes include alcohol ban and end to high end restaurants

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On August 6, 2021, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) released its updated Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionals, a voluntary code of ethics that applies to pharmaceutical company interactions with United States health care professionals.

As a member of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionals carries many of the principles of the IFPMA Code.

The PhRMA Code was initially published in 2002 and updated in 2009 and 2019. With this most recent revision, PhRMA has updated its principles applicable to company-sponsored speaker programs and clarified some other provisions of the Code. In this revision, PhRMA once again reiterated the purpose of speakers programs: to present substantive educational information designed to help address a “bona fide educational need among attendees” and invitations to the programs should be limited to those who have that bona fide educational need.

The PhRMA Code update also reiterates that meals offered as part of the speaker programs should be “modest as judged by local standards” and pharmaceutical companies should not pay for/provide alcohol in connection with speaker programs. The update also clarifies that high-end restaurants and similar venues are “not appropriate locations” for speaker programs.

As alluded to above, the Code update brings about some clarifications, including who can attend speaker programs. Under the revised Code, repeat attendance at a speaker program on the same or substantially the same topic where a meal is provided to the attendee is “generally not appropriate,” unless the attendee has a bona fide educational need to receive the information presented at the speaker program. The updated Code also clarifies that speakers who speak on a topic should generally not subsequently attend a program on the same or substantially the same topic.

Additionally, spouses or other guests should not attend company-sponsored informational programs unless the spouse or other guest is also a health care professional who has a bona fide educational need and for whom the speaker program is appropriate. This means that friends, significant others, family members, and other guests of speakers or invited attendees are not appropriate, unless that additional guest has an independent and bona fide educational need to receive the information presented in the speakers program.

PhRMA also noted that importance of educational relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health care professionals, as they can help to ensure that patients have access to the products they need and that the products are used correctly for their maximum benefit. When health care professionals and industry members communicate and educate one another, industry is able to inform health care professionals about the risks and benefits of products to help advance proper patient use, provide scientific and educational information, and receive feedback and advice about products.

These changes and clarifications will take effect January 1, 2022. The Code that remains in effect until then can be found here.

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