Drug Industry Bans Most Promotional Products
On July 10, the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) announced it will implement a revised PhRMA Code on Interactions with health-care professionals on Jan. 1, 2009. The updated code, which includes tightened regulations on consulting fees, complimentary meals and assurances of adequate representative training, also mandates a change that will have major ramifications on the promotional product industry. Item 10 in the revised report entitled, “Prohibition of Non-Educational and Practice Related Items,” explicitly states that it is prohibited to provide, “items for healthcare professional’s use that do not advance the disease or treatment education...” This provision would eliminate the dissemination of “reminder items” such as pens, notebooks and mugs. According to the PhRMA report, the change is to eliminate any misconception about the relationship between the drug companies and the individual doctor or practice. Richard Clark, PhRMA chairman and chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. stated, “Informative, ethical and professional relationships between health-care providers and America’s pharmaceutical research companies are instrumental to effective patient care.”
This view however, isn’t shared by all promotional industry suppliers, many of whom believe it is more of a quick-fix reaction to increased government scrutiny.
PPAI Opposes Voluntary PhRMA Code Restricting Medically Relevant Logoed Items
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) board of directors has announced modification of the PhRMA code on interactions with health-care professionals. Irving, Texas-based Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) announced recently it strongly opposes this code as they believe it severely and unjustifiably constrains the use and distribution of promotional products to health-care professionals.
This new, further-reaching PhRMA code will take effect in January 2009. Under the terms of this voluntary code, all noneducational items—including practice-related items of minimal value, such as pens, notepads, mugs and similar reminder items—should not be offered to health-care professionals or members of their staff, even if they are accompanied by patient or physician educational materials. However, PhRMA will still support the distribution of items designed primarily for the education of patients or health-care professionals if the items are not of substantial value ($100 or less) and do not have value to the health-care professional outside of his or her professional responsibilities. “While on one hand I applaud PhRMA for recognizing the value of promotional products in effectively keeping brand message top of mind, quite frankly, if my doctor is going to be influenced by a pen, a pad of paper or any other logoed item of minimal value at the risk of his or her professional reputation, I want another doctor,” said Steve Slagle, CAE, president and CEO of PPAI. “We are all exposed to advertising messages every day. I find it hard to believe that educated and sophisticated professionals in the health-care field must be isolated from these logoed items to ensure that they provide unbiased patient care,” he continued. “The modifications to this code are a knee-jerk reaction to the pressure being placed on the pharmaceutical industry to reform many of its marketing practices including trips, excessive honorariums and elaborate gifts. To put essential office tools and medically relevant logoed items in the same category as junkets and banquets makes no sense at all,” Slagle concluded.
Slagle, on behalf of the PPAI board of directors, will continue to reach out to Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of PhRMA, to voice the industry’s opposition to this proposed code. PPAI will work with PhRMA to offer guidance on the effective and beneficial uses of promotional products in the health-care field, not only in the areas of direct patient care, but in cause marketing and awareness campaigns, where promotional products have a proven benefit, including cancer, heart disease, drug abuse awareness and prevention, and many others. “This is simply PhRMA responding to policymakers, health-care professionals and others telling them that they can do better—and we agree—they can and should do better. This is not the solution. Rather, the PhRMA industry must take a closer look at some of the overly aggressive business tactics utilized by many of its practitioners,” said Stan Breckenridge, MAS, PPAI chairman of the board. “This new code, and its Draconian reporting practices modeled after Sarbanes-Oxley compliance mechanisms, are sure to drive up administrative costs on the part of the pharmaceutical giants, and I fully expect these costs to be passed on to the patient.”
PPAI said it will continue to monitor these developments and attempt to work with PhRMA to reach a solution that will allow health-care professionals to receive medically relevant logoed items and business supplies in a reasonable manner that supports effective patient care.
For more information on PPAI, visit www.ppa.org