News Week in Review, April 15, 2014

Wisconsin seeks to harmonize health records, a Vermont legislator wants an exemption for the medical device industry, and the pharmaceutical industry questions how much Sunshine has had an impact on relationships with physicians (so far).

The birds are signing, the grass is a vibrant green, the flowers are blooming…it must be time for the Super Bowl…of golf that is. The Masters, “a tradition unlike any other,” and the big daddy of all professional golf tournaments, was held in beautiful Augusta amid the standard back 9 meltdowns and whispers up and down the greens. With his usual breathtakingly long drives and birdies on 8 and 9, Bubba Watson fought off the young phenom, Jordan Spieth, to win his second green jacket. But enough about divots and drivers, tee time for this week’s News in Review is here.

In the words of the great Ty Webb, “be the ball.” It’s all about harmonization, right? Well, the governor of Wisconsin certainly thinks so. Governor Scott Walker signed a bill into law that will harmonize the state’s law regarding behavioral health records with the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

A Vermont physician and legislator, George Till, would like to take a mulligan (of sorts) on the state’s physician gift ban law. He has introduced a bill in to the state’s legislature for an exemption to allow medical device companies to provide food and drink to doctors at seminars and other events sponsored by medical device companies. According to Till, physicians really need to have a “hands on” experience to familiarize themselves with a medical device. Till is a supporter of the state’s gift ban, and he doesn’t believe that his bill is in opposition to the principle of the law.

Are conflicts of interest the sand trap of the CME world? At a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, ACCME president, Murray Kopelow, spoke about the ACCME’s conflict of interest requirements. Kopelow said the ACCME is “very precise” about determining when a conflict of interest exists. The organization evaluates whether the individual: a) has a financial relationship with a defined commercial interest and b) has the ability to control the content of CME relevant to that relationship. The content of accredited CME must be valid and free of commercial interest as defined by the ACCME. Kopelow is concerned about criticisms that ACCME’s standards are hindering innovation. He says this was not the intention and special guidance has been created for those working in discovery.

Takeda and Lilly were recently assessed one heck of a penalty stroke. The two companies were ordered to pay $9 billion by a federal jury for failure to disclose the cancer risks associated with use of the drug Actos.

The FDA is not quite sure what approach to take to the proposed safety prediction and mining tool intended to help assess drug adverse event safety signals. The project was initially announced in April of 2013, but by September it was put on hold due to funding concerns. On March 31 of this year, the FDA again announced it was again looking for an outside partner for the project, but just three days later they changed their minds. The agency provided no reasoning for the latest cancellation, only saying that it would “re-advertise the contract solicitation at a later date.”

What would a Week in Review be without one story about the Sunshine Act? During PhRMA’s annual meeting, leaders from various companies said the Act was having no effect on how their companies interact with physicians. While doctors have not shut the door on the industry, Bob Hugin, PhRMA’s board chair, is concerned that once published, the Sunshine data could be mischaracterized by the public and cause the physicians to reconsider how they do business with the industry. Hugin says companies must take a proactive approach to ensure the data is presented in the correct context.

As we approach the 18th green for this issue of the Week in Review, we’ll finish with a brief word about the expanding curriculum of PharmaCertify™ compliance training solutions. If global transparency is on your radar, we are adding Understanding Global Physician Spend to our lineup of customizable off-the-shelf eLearning modules. The module covers the EFPIA Code of Transfers of Value, as well as specific country laws, like the French Sunshine Act. Contact Sean Murphy at for more information and to see a content outline.

Have a great week everyone!

News Week in Review, April 8, 2014

China shifts its focus to medical device, the Arkansas Attorney General petitions the state’s Supreme Court to reconsider its reversal of the Risperdal verdict, GSK dismisses employees for violating expense rules, and a new study raises questions about conflicts of interests for medical school leaders sitting on the boards of pharmaceutical companies.

Ah yes, the glittering dresses, the suave tuxes, the perfectly coifed hair. No, we’re not talking about the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes, this is much more important than all that. It’s almost prom season!

If your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram isn’t littered with pictures of your kids and their cronies in their formal finery yet, it’s just a matter of weeks. You can take some small amount of solace knowing all those happy smiling faces will one day be questioning their choice of fashion or hairstyle. C’mon, you know you did. (Let’s just say there were some very unfortunate prom fashion choices made in the 70’s and 80’s by members of the News Week in Review staff.) As we wax poetic about proms of yore, let’s also look back at the compliance week that was, in this week’s News Week in Review.

First on the dance floor is news that China intends to toughen penalties for corporate malpractice against medical device companies. The country will segment devices into three categories based on their potential risk to consumers. The new rules are set to take effect in June, and the top fine for selling illegal medical devices will increase to 20 times the value of the device.

Not wanting to feel like a wallflower, the Attorney General of Arkansas is asking the state’s Supreme Court to reconsider its reversal of the $1.2 billion verdict in the Risperdal case. The court ruled the state had misapplied the state Medicaid fraud law when it tossed the verdict, and even said the law was codified incorrectly. The Arkansas Code Revision Commission voted to provide the AG with an analysis comparing the law as written to how it was written into Code. The AG says the analysis may be helpful in obtaining a new hearing.

The chaperones seem to be working hard at GSK. The company has dismissed several individuals for violating company expense rules. The company did not comment on the number of individuals involved, but did say monitoring efforts in China have increased, and that irregularities are always investigated. Emails reviewed by the Wall Street Journal indicate the company is also investigating allegations of bribery in the Middle East. The emails focus on activities occurring in Iraq, including the hiring of state employed doctors as medical representatives while those doctors were still working for the government.

A former GSK sales representative in China tells the Financial Times that kickbacks to doctors there were widespread. According to the former rep, domestic and foreign firms routinely paid kickbacks to doctors to achieve their sales targets, and the sales model at GSK was no different than those of its competitors. GSK called the behavior “completely unacceptable,” but as AstraZeneca’s CEO pointed out, even a tough compliance program can’t stop an employee determined to stray.

A new study finds that the leaders of medical schools and hospitals are being paid handsomely for sitting on the boards of pharmaceutical companies. The study found that of the 50 largest companies, 40% had at least one board member who was in a position of leadership at an academic medical facility. The average total compensation for these individuals was over $300k per year. The study raises the potential for a conflict of interest. For example, the president of Yale’s medical school receives nearly $300k from Abbott, but a spokesperson from Yale says the doctor would not make decisions about formularies, clinical trials, or drug samples, when Abbott is involved. Several other medical schools made similar comments regarding leaders of their medical facilities who receive compensation from pharmaceutical companies.

As we cue the last song on this week’s playlist, we’ll take this opportunity to let you know the PharmaCertify™ list of compliance modules and mobile apps is expanding. If global transparency, including the EFPIA Code and French Sunshine Act, is on your radar, we’ve added Understanding Global Physician Spend Transparency to our curriculum of customizable eLearning modules. To learn more about the module, or any of topics, contact Sean Murphy at (609) 466-2828, ext. 25.

Have a great week everyone.

News Week in Review, April 1, 2014

Signs of sunshine in Canada, the DOJ issues its first FCPA advisory opinion of 2014, and the Serious Fraud office faces growing challenges in the enforcement of the UK Bribery Act.

April showers bring May flowers…and we are certainly ready for some flowers! Really, any sign that spring is here to stay would be appreciated. We’re even looking forward to a little spring cleaning as long as the spring part comes along with the cleaning part. So with visions of daffodils dancing in our heads, and the chill of winter fading from our memories, we bring you the compliance news of the week, with the News in Review.

Those May flowers may even have a little Sunshine added to the mix in Canada. Two Canadian physicians think the Ontario Minister of Health should require pharma companies with drugs on public formulary to disclose their financial relationships with physicians. As justification, the physicians claim other transparency initiatives in the country have proven to be both beneficial and popular and studies have shown that even small tokens, such as pens and note pads, influence decision making.

The DOJ’s first FCPA advisory opinion of 2014 has sprouted. The FCPA opinion procedure allows entities to seek an opinion from the Attorney General on whether a specific situation is in line with the DOJ’s current enforcement of the anti-bribery provisions of the law. This particular opinion was in response to a financial services provider and investor bank asking if a payment due to an individual when the individual was a private citizen could be considered illegal if the individual now is a foreign official.

The Serious Fraud Office continues to face stormy weather following the disintegration of the high-profile bribery case against Victor Dahdahel. In addition to the negative publicity around the failed prosecution, the agency has faced significant cuts in funding; increasing pressure to secure convictions under the Bribery Act; and growing questions about how it expects to obtain evidence from jurisdictions outside the U.K.

The seeds of clinical trial transparency are taking root, according to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). EFPIA recently provided an update on the adoption of the joint EFPIA-PhRMA principle on clinical trial transparency. According to the announcement, several companies, including Pfizer, UCB and Sanofi, have all taken steps to make the results of their clinical trials publicly available. Pfizer has expanded its policies on data sharing and Sanofi will be participating in a multi-company web portal designed to share clinical trial data. UCB revealed its plans for adoption of the principles in a publicly accessible webinar.

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is looking to eliminate the need for Sunshine. Proposed guidelines from the influential regulator will put a stop to the practice of physicians accepting gifts or items of value from the industry and will prohibit doctors from having articles ghostwritten by pharmaceutical companies. The guidelines will allow doctors to accept lunches, patient education items, drug samples, and funds for educational programs. Physicians will also be permitted to serve as speakers or consultants. Critics say the proposed guidelines offer nothing in the way of true reform.

Not only does the end of March signal the start of spring, it brings us the deadline for submitting Phase I Sunshine reports. Now that you’ve cleared that hurdle and you have time to stop and smell the roses, have you considered sprucing up your Sunshine training? The Sunshine Act: The Federal Physician Spend Disclosure Law from the PharmaCertify™ suite of compliance training modules, offers the updated training your staff needs to understand the law’s disclosure requirements.

Have a great week everyone!

News Week in Review, March 24, 2014

GSK plans to hire physician speakers as employees, the Arkansas Supreme Court reverses the Risperdal verdict, SciClone sets money aside for an FCPA settlement, and Canada strengthens its Food and Drug Act.

Are your brackets ruined? You’re not alone. They don’t call it March Madness for nothing! Take heart though, most NCAA fans are in the same boat, and that one billion dollars from Warren Buffet for a perfect bracket can still be yours…next year. As you work through the carnage of your tournament picks, we offer the solace of a week’s worth of compliance news, with this week’s News in Review.

Outside physician speakers have suddenly been delegated to the bench at GSK. The company announced it plans to hire physicians and scientists to conduct product-focused educational programs rather than pay external speakers. Bringing the speakers in house should lighten the company’s Sunshine Act reporting load, but some experts question whether the move is worth the risk of having the speakers’ credibility and qualifications questioned.

Upon video review, the ruling in the courtroom has been overturned. The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed the $1.2 billion Risperdal verdict against J&J and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen. The companies were sued and ultimately fined for violations of the state’s Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (MFFCA) and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). In an appeal, the companies argued appeal that the court erred when it ruled on the MFFCA and DTPA claims. The justices agreed on the MFFCA since the law is written to apply to a healthcare facility and not a pharmaceutical company and a majority of them agreed that the DTPA fines were not warranted.

No cash, no foul? A recent ruling in a case involving GSK and Teva seems to suggest so. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that since a settlement between the two companies did not involve a cash payout, the arrangement did not violate antitrust laws. As part of the settlement, GSK agreed to allow Teva to sell a chewable form of one of its drugs prior to the patent expiring while agreeing not to sell its own authorized generic of the drug. The Federal Trade Commission had argued that those types of arrangements have their own value.

SciClone is keeping some key resources on the bench and ready to be utilized when needed. The company announced it is reserving $2 million for penalties related to an ongoing FCPA investigation. In its annual report, the company said a settlement was probable.

A full-court press to strengthen Canada’s Food and Drug Act is in effect. The Canadian Parliament will debate a bill that would give the country greater ability to regulate drugs even after they are approved. The bill will give the Health Minister the power to recall unsafe products and require changes to labels.

If you thought NCAA rules were confusing, try figuring out the international physician spend transparency requirements. At the recent Disclosure Summit, an expert discussed the EFPIA’s Code of Disclosure on Transfers of Value from Pharmaceutical Companies to Healthcare Professionals and Healthcare Organizations (hence forth know as the Code). The EFPIA Code must be integrated into its member organizations’ code by the end of the year. That’s 33 different organizations! Further complicating the situation for the manufacturer are conflicts between the Code and existing laws in countries like France and Portugal. EFPIA is expected to release more guidance on addressing these conflicts at the end of March.

As the final buzzer sounds on this week’s Review, we offer a reminder that the PharmaCertify™ suite of customizable off-the-shelf eLearning modules and mobile apps provide the touch point learning opportunities your reps need to stay up-to-date with the latest commercial compliance information and good promotional practices.

Have a great week everyone!

Week in Review, March 17, 2014

In this issue…a look back on Caronia and its impact (if any), China cracks down on medical device websites, Teva settles improper allegations involving one of its subsidiaries and the FDA chastises one company for its product claims on Facebook.

Top o’ the morning, afternoon and evening to you! This may be the Ides of March, but we’ll put that aside and focus on the fun of St. Patrick’s Day instead. If this is March 17th, spring must be right around the corner and this must be Lá Fhéile Pádraig! Hopefully, you wore enough green today to avoid the pinch of those dastardly leprechauns. Pass the corned beef and cabbage, cue the bagpipes and straighten your kilts…it’s time for this week’s O’News in Review!

More than a year has passed since the Caronia decision, but it hasn’t exactly been the lucky charm some thought it would be for the industry. The decision supported the argument that truthful, non-misleading statements regarding off-label uses were protected by the First Amendment. However, the government distinguishes the application of the decision as it applies to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act from how it applies to the False Claims Act (FCA). The government has argued that Caronia has no bearing on cases brought under the FCA because the Act applies to any conduct, including off-label promotion, that results in the submission of a false claim being submitted. For the foreseeable future at least, the government is as committed as always to pursue cases involving off-label promotion.

The Chinese government thinks that some medical device websites have taken the gift of gab a bit too far. The country’s State Food and Drug Authority has reported ten websites to the authorities for publishing false information about medical devices. The discovery is particularly concerning to the global med tech industry since several of the sites have allegedly forged the names of medical device manufacturers and posted fake equipment.

Teva Pharmaceuticals, Ltd. has agreed to part with a wee bit o’ green ($27.6 million) to settle allegations that one of their subsidiaries made improper payments to a physician.  According to the government, the Teva subsidiary, IVAX, funded vacations to Miami for the doctor, his family, friends and staff. The doctor is facing civil charges in Illinois federal court.

Closing the discrepancy between what medical device manufacturers report for physician spend and what those physicians disclosed may take more than just a little luck, according to a new study by Yale. The study compared the spend disclosures posted on the Medtronic and DePuy websites against what the physicians had disclosed. More than half of the information on Medtronic’s website was not in line with what the physicians reported and the discrepancy rate at DePuy was 30%. The study’s director says the errors go both ways, and he is concerned the public will assume that physicians are trying to hide something when that is not the case.

The International Society of Medical Publication Professionals has reevaluated its recommendations regarding support for medical publications and Sunshine reporting. In its previous recommendation, the organization suggested that all support from an applicable manufacturer was reportable. Now it recommends members consider who would benefit from the publication. For example, if the support provided by the manufacturer helps an author publish a study that the manufacturer would have an ethical obligation to publish anyway, then that support is not reportable.

The FDA has issued an Untitled Letter to a pharmaceutical manufacturer over content on the company’s Facebook page. According to the letter, statements on the page touted the benefits of the drug without revealing any of the risks. In addition to failing to report potential risks, the company omitted important “approved use” information from the product label.

With that, we end this emerald edition of the News in Review. While the celebration of St. Patrick may be filled with talk of good luck and the proverbial pot of gold, compliance training is not something you want to leave to chance. That’s why our PharmaCertify™ suite of off-the-shelf modules cover the critical topics, like on-label promotion and the Sunshine Act, your colleagues need to integrate good promotional practices into their daily activities.

Have a great week everyone!

News Week in Review, March 10, 2014

Pharmaceutical companies cut spending on physician speakers,  the DOJ turns up the HEAT, China ups the stakes on the bribery front, and the value of a reprint under Sunshine is still unclear.

Hey, wake up! The transition to Daylight Saving Time is such a drag…on our energy that is. Soon enough, we’ll all be excited about the extra daylight hours, but right now, we’d settle for some extra caffeine. To help you find your set point and adjust your internal clock, we offer our regularly scheduled overview of all things compliance…with this week’s News in Review.

The amount pharmaceutical companies spend on physician speakers is not exactly spring forward, according to an analysis of Pro Publica data. In fact, several large companies have dramatically cut spending on physician speakers, which some attribute to the transparency requirements of Sunshine. The companies offer a different rationale though. A spokesperson for Lilly says educational programs are of most value when a product is launched, or new clinical data is released. Additionally, as web conferencing increases, the need for speakers declines. A spokesperson for Pfizer points out that as blockbuster drugs go off patent and face generic competition, the need for educational programs and speakers for those drugs wanes.

Spending on drug marketing is on the rise in Washington D.C., according to a report by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. In 2012, companies spent $97.5 million on drug marketing, which represented the first year-on-year increase since 2007.

As spring draws near, and the temperatures rise, the DOJ continues to provide some HEAT of its own with the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative. Using the False Claims Act as its primary tool, the agency has recovered $13.4 billion from individual providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device companies.

Takeda would like to turn back time after the company admitted using “inappropriate expressions” in an advertisement for its hypertension drug, Blopress, in Japan. A Japanese physician noticed that data presented in the advertisement was not consistent with the results of a head-to-head study with a competitor’s product. The company admitted that using a graph from a 2006 study in the advertisement could have caused confusion.

Speaking of losing sleep, life science executives may be lying in bed at night thinking about the increasing challenges of doing business in China. Officials in China announced that companies found to have committed bribery will be blacklisted and updated the country’s “Rules on the Establishment of Commercial Bribery Blacklists for Purchase and Distribution in the Health Care Industry.” Circular No. 50, which delineates the updates to the rules, states that a company may be blacklisted for several reasons, including minor instances of bribery that are not prosecuted by authorities. If blacklisted, hospitals and other facilities will be prohibited from purchasing goods in the province where the bribery occurred for two years. Companies blacklisted two or more times in five years will be prohibited from selling its products in the country all together.

A new study shows drug makers are not quite ready to crawl out from under the covers when it comes to using social media for clinical studies. The study conducted by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) found that companies using social media in the clinical research process are doing so in a “siloed and experimental fashion.”  Lack of guidance from the FDA and concerns about the impact of social media on study integrity are cited as factors slowing the adoption of social media for clinical trials.

What’s a Daylight Saving Time theme without at least one reference to Sunshine. With little in the way of guidance from CMS, companies are taking various approaches to determining the value of journal reprints under the Sunshine Act. Some companies follow what CMS has stated, and value a reprint at the cost the company paid to acquire it from a publisher. Other companies use a blended average model and some hire a third party to determine the value of their reprints. Complicating the matter further, doctors are starting to refuse reprints because they see them as taxable form of income.

As the sun sets much later in the day, and on this week’s News in Review, we close with a reminder that the PharmaCertify™ online learning module, The Sunshine Act: The Federal Physician Spend Disclosure Law, covers the topics your learners need to understand, like disclosure requirements and excluded payments, to stay abreast of this industry-changing legislation.

Have a bright and sunny week everyone!

News Week in Review, March 4, 2014

The FDA updates its good reprint practices guidance, ACCME modifies the accreditation process, one attorney feels the abundance of qui tam cases are slowing the system, and the Solicitor General offers a suggestion to the Supreme Court on a qui tam case.

Laissez les bons temps rouler everyone! It’s the last day of the Carnival season and Mardi Gras is upon us. This is a crazy time of year in the Big Easy for sure, but even if you can’t make it to Bourbon Street, you just need to grab yourself some King Cake, organize an office krewe, and let the good times roll. As you contemplate all of the thematic possibilities for your floats, we’ll kick off our celebration of the week in compliance with this week’s News in Review.

Extravagant designs may work when designing Mardi Gras masques, but not so much for CME accreditation rules. The ACCME’s board of directors has adopted changes to simplify the accreditation process and requirements. Changes include a simplification of the process for first-time applications and the removal of some of the accreditation criteria and policy requirements. The changes apply to all CME providers in the ACCME accreditation system, and are effective immediately.

According to one expert, there are way too many attendees lining up for the qui tam ball. Peter Hutt, a defense lawyer in False Claims cases, points out that nearly 75 percent of cases brought by qui tam plaintiffs don’t result in government intervention or a recovery for the U.S. Treasury. According to Hutt, the cases are a drag on the system and he believes there should be changes to the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Qui tam litigation should be a second line of defense in fighting fraud, says Hutt, and he would like to see incentives in place for companies to self-disclose fraudulent activity.

The U.S. Solicitor General is suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court not review a qui tam case involving Takeda. The case raises the question of whether a relator has to provide specific instances of false claims in order to meet satisfy rule 9(b) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. Although the circuit courts are split on the case, the Solicitor General believes the split among the circuit courts is not as pronounced as it initially appeared, and as the law evolves, the courts may resolve the issue.

Merck has good reason to celebrate this week. In a securities filing, the company noted the DOJ has closed its FCPA investigation of the company, and no action will be taken.

Any celebrating at the  French train manufacturer, Alstom, will have to wait. The company is expected to face charges of violating the U.K. Bribery Act. The charges are the result of a five year investigation. In 2010, the Serious Fraud Office raided the Alstom offices and the homes of several executives in the U.K., who were arrested under suspicion of paying bribes to win foreign contracts.

The FDA updated its good reprint practices guidance to address the topic of “distributing scientific and medical publications on unapproved new uses.” In the section referencing scientific or medical reference texts, the agency offers guidance on two fronts; providing chapters from a text and providing an entire textbook. Overall, the guidance for medical reference texts and CPGs are largely the same as medical journals.

That about does it for this week’s parade of compliance news. We wish you a joyous Fat Tuesday, and we look forward to bringing you all the compliance news you need to know right back her next week.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!


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