PR View by Nancy Hicks

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The law of unintended consequences is doing great harm to healthcare associations and advocacy groups, as companies have been forced to retreat from traditional venues of support for nonprofit organizations.

The recent $355 million fine paid by AstraZeneca for marketing violations has had a chilling effect on the pharmaceutical industry. OIG guidelines, intended to prevent improper influence, have dramatically changed the landscape for pharma and third-party partnerships. While increased scrutiny was needed to correct some abuses, there is a sense among nonprofits that the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater.

Medical associations and patient advocacy groups are finding it increasingly difficult to access grant support from pharmaceutical companies, due to the complexity of the new compliance regulations.

Industry support for CME courses has also been sharply curtailed in this environment. The same is true for patient education programs, an integral part of the mission of many advocacy groups
Third-party partnerships have flourished. Pharma companies need the credibility of nonprofits to educate consumers on diseases and new treatments. Nonprofits need the financial support to carry out medical and consumer education. Many landmark public education programs have been born of these partnerships. The American public is the true beneficiary.

Few would dispute the need for some regulatory correction in industry marketing practices. However, regulatory overreaction is proving detrimental to these firms and the advocacy groups they support. Unless the pendulum swings back to a level where these partnerships can thrive, the real loser will be the American public.

Nancy Hicks is associate director, global healthcare practice, North America, at Ketchum

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