LONDON — Doctors can still get free samples of medicines, though not football tickets or lunch for their spouses, under a revised code of conduct drafted by a global drug industry trade group.
The new rules clarify the differences between gifts, promotional aids and items such as anatomical models that can be used in medical practice, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations said Thursday in a statement. The federation’s member companies will be required to adopt the new guidelines and provide related training to their 1.3 million employees, the group said.
The code may help curb legal expenses related to marketing, particularly in the United States, where GlaxoSmithKline last year agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations and other matters. Pfizer and Eli Lilly each paid more than $1 billion to settle marketing allegations in 2009. Novartis and AstraZeneca are among drugmakers that in the past year have disclosed U.S. subpoenas seeking information on the selling of certain products.
“The new code provides a framework for the industry to act with integrity and build trust,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer David Brennan, the federation’s president, said in the statement. “This is not about doing the easy thing, but the right thing.”
Free samples of medicines may be given to doctors who are authorized to prescribe them to patients, the federation said in the code. Companies should avoid extravagant venues for meetings, be transparent in promotional materials, and shouldn’t offer items for the personal benefit of a doctor or nurse, such as gift certificates or concert tickets, according to the guidelines.
“As a general rule, the hospitality provided must not exceed what participants would normally be prepared to pay for themselves,” the federation said in the code. “Companies should not pay any costs associated with individuals accompanying invited health-care professionals.”
The rules don’t address direct-to-consumer advertising, pricing or other trade terms for supplying wholesalers and other commercial customers, or promotion of medical devices, the federation said. Drugmakers that fund patient advocacy groups shouldn’t insist on being the sole sponsor of such an organization, and should outline in writing the nature of the financial support, according to the code.