Vantage Point: Determining "fair market value"

Bill Little
Bill Little

The Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) has received member inquiries regarding the “fair market value” (FMV) of payments made to HCPs as research incentives. For example, “How much should incentive payments be? How should the payments be determined, and by whom? Should we (e.g., PMRG) formulate a super matrix of values for the industry?”

Let's begin with FMV as a business proposition. Determining payment incentives can be complex. HCP overpayment may produce better response rates, but make the research unaffordable as well as raising recipients' expectations for future compensation. But underpayment may lead to poor response rates, adversely impacting research costs and timeline.

As a regulatory matter, PMRG is unaware of widespread pertinence of FMV to HCP honoraria. The Sunshine Act doesn't regulate payment amounts of typical marketing research honoraria for HCPs. And, no state compliance or enforcement issues have been called to our attention regarding incentive amounts.

Some manufacturers conduct HCP salary studies to direct acceptable payment ranges to vendors. More often, manufacturers allow market force efficiency, competition, and vendor knowledge to determine appropriate HCP payment amounts.

The least desirable concept for determining FMV would be through the creation of a super matrix of values by PMRG, or other trade associations. Not only would it be empirically difficult and internally controversial, but may violate antitrust laws.

For now, leaving it to market efficiencies already in place or to the manufacturers who maintain their own payment tables may be the best path forward.


Bill Little is PMRG government affairs chair and president, Delta Marketing Dynamics.

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