A new Medicines Australia code of conduct promoting greater transparency of payments to doctors and consumers will require more focus by the meetings sector.

In late 2012 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission authorised a new Code of Conduct that requires all Medicines Australia member companies to disclose aggregate payments to doctors and consumer groups.

The new Code of Conduct came into effect on January 11, 2013. It requires Medicines Australia member companies to report in aggregate amounts:

  • All payments made to healthcare professionals for advisory boards and consultancy arrangements
  • All sponsorships of healthcare professionals to attend medical conferences and educational events
  • All payments made to speakers at educational events
  • All sponsorships of all individual consumer organisations for each financial year, including the value of non-monetary support.

According to Medicines Australia, members have overwhelmingly supported looking at even further transparency measures in the future. An industry/stakeholder Transparency Working Group will make recommendations on further transparency of companies’ interactions with doctors in 2013.

Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said the authorisation of the new code and the industry’s establishment of the stakeholder Transparency Working Group heralded a new era of greater transparency and disclosure.
“Our members are firmly committed to increasing transparency so that the nature of their relationships with doctors and consumers is open to scrutiny,” Dr Shaw said.
“Transparency is important because it builds public trust and confidence in those relationships. Engagement with doctors is important and legitimate because patients want to be sure that their doctors know how to use the medicines they’re being prescribed.
“Now the nature of that engagement will be much more transparent.”
In response to questions on the new Code of Conduct by micenet AUSTRALIA and its potential impact on the meetings sector, media communications manager at Medicines Australia, Jamie Nicholson, said it is fine for healthcare professionals to be sponsored to attend medical conferences and educational events if they report these sponsorships.
He said it was also okay for payments to be made to speakers at educational events if they were reported. He said this was a new reporting requirement introduced with Edition 17 of the Code of Conduct.

The changes coincide with the release of The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations’ new Code of Practice (2012). Within the code there are very specific requirements relating to the meetings industry. Key points include:

  • 7.1.1 Scientific and Educational Objectives – The purpose and focus of all symposia, congresses and other promotional, scientific or professional meetings (and “Event”) for healthcare professionals organised or sponsored by a company should be to provide scientific or educational information and/or inform healthcare professionals about products.
  • 7.1.2 Events Involving Foreign Travel – No company may organise or sponsor an Event for healthcare professionals (including sponsoring individuals to attend such an Event as described in Article 7.2) that takes place outside of their home country unless it is appropriate and justified to do so from the logistical or security point of view. International scientific congresses and symposia that derive participants from many countries are therefore justified and permitted.
  • 7.1.4 Appropriate Venue – All Events must be held in an appropriate venue that is conducive to the scientific or educational objectives and the purpose of the Event or meeting. Companies must avoid using renowned or extravagant venues.
  • 7.1.5 Limits – Refreshments and/or meals incidental to the main purpose of the Event can only be provided: exclusively to participants of the Event; and if they are moderate and reasonable as judged by local standards.
  • 7.1.6 Entertainment – No entertainment or other leisure or social activity should be provided or paid for by member companies. (In the Q&A section of the Code it says that it would not be appropriate for a company to fund attendance at a concert, purchase entertainment tickets, or pay for entertainment in any form. However, if there is background music or a local performance at the venue where the event is taking place, which is not paid for by a pharmaceutical company, this may be permitted).

Other points contained within the code that should also be examined by meeting planners include sponsorships, the non-payment of costs associated with accompanying persons, fees for service, and gifts.

Visit www.medicinesaustralia.com.au and www.ifpma.org.


Global medical meetings guide launched

The first comprehensive guide to pharmaceutical regulations and continuing medical education was recently launched in the U.S.

The Red Book for Medical Meetings has been developed by the Society for Worldwide Medical Exchange (SWME) and is available for an annual subscription.
The guide offers detailed pharmaceutical regulation and continuing medical education (CME) information for more than 100 countries. SWME aims to help medical meeting planners, CME providers and academic institutions ensure meeting compliance and offer internationally accredited programs. The research may also benefit organisations working to improve health care in developing countries through CME, such as the World Health Organization.
“The Red Book for Medical Meetings simplifies complex international regulations and compiles them into a single, easily accessible, format. This will help educators understand the various requirements in each country and foster greater transparency within the industry,” said Rome CME-CPD Group Secretary General, Alfonso Negri.

For more information visit www.redbook-medicalmeetings.org.