BIO punts on PhRMA physician interaction code

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The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued a statement calling on member companies to develop their own codes of conduct on interaction with physicians, but again stopped short of adopting the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals.

BIO, PhRMA's biotech counterpart, said it “supports the principles in PhRMA's Code governing interactions with healthcare professionals, and will continue to encourage its members to maintain the highest standards for ethical business practices and socially responsible industry conduct related to company interactions with healthcare professionals.” But the trade group, whose members include Amgen, Allergan and Genentech, said each company should adopt codes of conduct like PhRMA's, “tailored as appropriate to its own particular circumstances.” BIO members wishing to sign the PhRMA code could do so, the statement suggested, even if they were not PhRMA members.

“Our policy statement recognizes the difficulty in crafting a ‘one-size-fits-all' code of conduct for our diverse membership,” said Vertex founder Dr. Joshua Boger, who chairs BIO's Board and Health Section Governing Board, in a statement. “At the same time, it reinforces the need for BIO member companies to continue to adhere to the highest ethical standards, specifically in their marketing and healthcare professional education practices, and to be transparent with the public as to their activities in this regard.”

"Last summer, when PhRMA updated their code, we looked at it,” BIO VP communications Jeff Joseph told MM&M. “In our case, the vast majority of our member companies in the field of healthcare don't have marketed products yet, so we would be endorsing a code that doesn't apply to many of them. We have companies involved in diagnostics or delivery that may decide that the AdvaMed code is a better fit for them. We wanted to give member companies the flexibility to develop policies that meet the spirit of the PhRMA Code and the letter of the law but ones that best fit their business.”

AdvaMed is a trade group representing device and diagnostics companies.

“The novel and state-of-the art therapies that are the object of the research of our member companies demand that these companies help provide continuing education to healthcare professionals,” said BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood. “These educational interactions help healthcare professionals make informed decisions in consultation with their patients based on the most up-to-date information. These interactions must continue to be governed by the highest ethical standards so that we maintain our bond of trust with patients and healthcare providers.”

The PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, announced in July, sharply limited gifts to physicians and prohibited many forms of freebies for docs attending CME events and speaker programs deemed excessive in the past. PhRMA chairman Billy Tauzin said at the time that he was talking to BIO about adopting the code, which he hoped would forestall new regulation on industry marketing practices. Congress, he said, “will obviously step in where industries don't do a good job of self-managing.”
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