Questions About Promotion Prompt Marketers to Develop Code of Ethics

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No matter what we might think of the policies emanating from the White House these days, things are looking favorable both for the life sciences industry and the marketing companies that serve the industry.

Look at the almost daily policy announcements from the Scott Gottlieb-led FDA. Since Gottlieb was confirmed as commissioner in early May, we have seen almost daily releases on significant matters including efforts to address the opioid epidemic, spur medical device innovation, speed generic drug approvals, and remodel the regulation of tobacco products.

But nowhere have we seen emphasis on combatting false and misleading drug promotion and advertising. None. Okay, there was one uncontroversial warning letter from the FDA's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion. That's virtually none.

So, why is the executive committee of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication focused these days on creating a code of ethics and developing additional self-regulatory guidelines? Because, according to Lee Peeler, head of the respected Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC), this is the perfect time to do so.

See also: Gottlieb Likely to Take On Off-Label, Predictability at the FDA

“You can be proactive and develop guidelines now during this time, or wait a few years for the pendulum to swing back and develop them as a defense against new laws and regulations,” Peeler told CHC executive committee chair Sharon Callahan and chair-elect Karsten Risch at a recent lunch. “The issues never go away. They just recede to the background for a while.”  

Risch, chief medical officer at Havas Health, and Callahan, CEO of Omnicom Health Group's TBWA\WorldHealth, along with the rest of the CHC's executive committee, are looking at all the right places for areas that are ripe for transformation and update.

Recognizing that much of the information on the internet and elsewhere is misleading, the CHC is looking to stand for the provision of information that is not only accurate but fully vetted and backed by rigorous science. Moreover, the CHC is looking at ways to promote health literacy as a means to promote public health and lower healthcare spending.

Big plans, yes. The committee is heeding Peeler's suggestion and moving forward while continuing to stand steadfastly against those who would censor company-sponsored information.


John Kamp is the executive director at the Coalition for Healthcare Communication. 

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