New PhRMA Code Bans Meals, Pens, Mugs and Other Common Gifts to Physicians

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Companies also should not be buying meals for providers without offering product education at the same time, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) says in its recently released "PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals"

AIS's Report on Medicare Compliance (RMC) - Brand-name drug makers that follow their trade group's updated voluntary code for interacting with providers will no longer distribute freebies such as pens and coffee mugs. Companies also should not be buying meals for providers without offering product education at the same time, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) says in its recently released "PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals". While the changes should have been expected by health care entities and physicians, older doctors may have more trouble adjusting, two experts tell AIS's Report on Medicare Compliance.

This version of the code is updated from one released in 2002 and takes effect in January 2009. PhRMA says this is an ongoing process. Companies that publicly say they will follow the code will be listed on PhRMA's Web site and will have to certify annually that they have policies and procedures in place to foster compliance with the code, the organization says.

"Providing items for healthcare professionals' use that do not advance disease or treatment education - even if they are practice-related items of minimal value (such as pens, note pads, mugs and similar 'reminder' items with company or product logos) - may foster misperceptions that company interactions with health care professionals are not based on informing them about medical and scientific issues," the organization says. But educational items, such as anatomical models for exam rooms, are still OK a long as they cost less than $100, according to the code.

PhRMA says companies can still buy meals for providers, but they must be "modest," "occasional" and must take place in the office or hospital setting and should accompany an informational presentation. Entertainment tickets are out now too.

PhRMA also says arrangements under which health care professionals work as consultants should be handled with care. "It is appropriate for consultants who provide advisory services to be offered reasonable compensation for those services and reimbursement for reasonable travel, lodging, and meal expenses incurred as part of providing those services. Any compensation or reimbursement made in conjunction with a consulting arrangement should be reasonable and based on fair-market value," the code says.

This article has been excerpted from AIS's Report on Medicare Compliance (RMC). To access the story in its entirety, visit http://www.aishealth.com/Bnow/hbd081108.html.

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