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It's that time of year again—time to organize our thoughts for the new year and get ready as healthcare marketing researchers to make the biggest contributions possible to our organization. As we wrap up 2008 and look ahead to 2009, I would like to share a few observations that might help you prepare for the work ahead. 

The first thing that comes to mind is something that I believe we are going to have to watch out for. In just a few short weeks, new regulations will be in place that severely restrict our sales reps' “interventions” with prescribers. Not even a 10-cent pen bearing a product name may be left with prescribers during a sales call, and reps will no longer be able to take physicians out of the office or hospital for even a modest meal. Every time these regulations have tightened historically, several pharmas have attempted to use marketing research as a “safe harbor” through which they could still conduct forbidden activities. If we can't provide gifts as part of a promo, goes this line of reasoning, we can certainly reward physicians for their participation in marketing research. So let's just conduct “marketing research” with the top 10,000 prescribers in our product class, exposing them to our product, developing a relationship with our company and wrapping an honorarium ribbon around the whole package. Interesting idea? Maybe. Illegal? Definitely! Be prepared to potentially get requests to perform such bogus research in the year to come. Refuse to honor them, unless you are especially pleased by the prospect of receiving a subpoena. 

My guidance is to stay out of trouble and think out of the box as you go about your work. In today's marketplace this is more important than ever. 

Vanderveer is group CEO of GfK US Healthcare Companies
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