Meetings barred from five-star hotels

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International meeting planners may be chafing this month from a new rule barring pharmaceutical companies from supporting educational events at luxury venues. But in the US, where reform has been under way for a decade, it's expected to have minimal impact.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) adopted the rule as part of a set of updates to its Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practice that went into effect January 1. IFPMA, whose 26 member companies include Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer and  GlaxoSmithKline, prohibits them from giving doctors money or gifts that might influence drug choices but allows inexpensive gifts.

IFPMA Director General Dr Harvey Bale told MM&M the new code will have “only marginal effect” on educational events. “Already, US doctors are facing the fact that companies will not pay spousal travel expenses, and meetings are principally focused on scientific content relative to surroundings,” he said via e-mail from IFPMA headquarters in Geneva.

Nor does he expect countries to restrict their investment in educational events as a result.

“As far as industry is concerned, tightening of ethical promotion oversight will have zero effect on educational events,” he added.

Lew Miller, WentzMiller & Associates principal, said the new code won't have much of an impact on European events, either, since the drug industry has strong guidelines there, too. But people booking conventions in second- and third-world countries may feel its effects, as will US physicians still used to traveling to extravagant places for their med ed, he said.

The area of greatest impact, said Bale, will be in implementation of the code's gift policies, a posture of zero tolerance toward offenders and a strong deterrent: publicizing violations.
“Our goal is to prevent stupid events of the past that undermine public confidence in the industry from happening again in the future.”

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