The new Code of Practice, which became effective on January 1 of 2019, is the first revision since 2012. The IFPMA says the changes bring its Code into alignment with those of member associations including EFPIA and PhRMA.
In a release announcing the updated Code, the IFPMA specifically highlighted revised language in chapter 7.5 which tightens the restrictions on what are considered acceptable gifts. “Items in this section, where permissible, must never constitute an inducement to prescribe, recommend, purchase, supply, sell or administer a pharmaceutical product,” the IFPMA Code states.
The new language and clarifications build on the IFPMA’s 2012 guidelines that prohibited gifting for personal benefit. Now, in addition, pharmaceutical manufacturers must eschew giving “cultural courtesy gifts” and promotional aids, including ones given directly as well as through affiliated clinics and institutions.
Also included in the ban are prescription promotional aids. This includes — but is not limited to — sticky notes, mouse pads, calendars, bags, etc. Giving other similar non-monetary reminder products also is now prohibited by manufacturers. However, there is a carve-out in this stipulation that allows for promotion of over-the-counter medications if this is relevant to an HCP’s practice, as well as notepads and pens — provided they are branded with company-only and not product-specific branding — that are of minimal value and intended to be used in the context of note-taking during company events.
The IFPMA also provided further clarification regarding gifts of medical utility, such as inhalation devices and mobile apps, items of medical utility that HCPs are not expected to provide patients with, and educational items such as journal subscriptions, memory sticks loaded with educational material and scientific books. Product-specific branding is prohibited for gifts of medical utility, and materials must conform to new limits on reasonable value.
These updates to the Code of Practice came in conjunction with the publication of a new IFPMA Ethos, of which the organization says, “This change aims to shift from a rules-based to a values-based Code.” The changes are important for Pharmaceutical companies because they will require significant changes in promotional activities in order to conform with the new requirements.
We recommend a strategic coordination of protocols be undertaken by compliance, sales, meeting-planning and marketing teams to ensure that all parties conform to this new Code of Practice immediately and completely. The scope of these changes provide an instructive example of why cross-silo coordination within Life Sciences companies and their third-party vendor partners is such a critical component of compliance management today.