Week in Review, October 1, 2013

The False Claims Act goes global, the FDA chimes in on mobile apps, and we hear from the OPDP on social media guidance…sort of.

Have you seen them yet? They’re small in number now, but if you look carefully, you’ll see them. October has only just begun, and yet, they’ve emerged…Christmas decorations. For now, it may just be a small display of collector ornaments off in a corner, or an inflatable lawn ornament, or two, slyly mixed in with the Halloween bunch. And we haven’t even started raking the leaves yet! We’re nowhere near ready to even think about the mad rush of the holiday season, but we are ready to bring you the compliance news you need to know, with this week’s News in Review.

Not rushing the holiday season might be good for the nerves, but putting off the implementation of a good due diligence program is never a good idea. The actions of intermediaries continue to be a key risk area for companies doing business overseas. FCPA investigations are on the rise and the Serious Fraud Office has levied its first charges for violations of the UK Bribery. Prosecutors are not likely to take a kind view of companies that have a “check the box” mentality when it comes to assuring their intermediaries are operating in a compliant manner. Pre-contract vetting of agents and suppliers, on-going monitoring, and compliance clauses in third-party contracts, are critical steps in demonstrating you company takes the risks posed by the use of intermediaries seriously.

Federal regulators certainly seem to be in a hurry to utilize the False Claim Act globally. With a large percentage of finished pharmaceutical products and the vast majority of active ingredients coming from outside the U.S., the FCA was bound to be applied to misdeeds occurring in other countries. The recent Ranbaxy case, involving the company’s manufacturing facilities in India, is one example. The FDA has regulatory authority over manufacturing facilities making products for the U.S. market, and the Ranbaxy case demonstrates prosecutors’ willingness to apply the FCA to actions occurring outside our borders.

Bayer found itself in the news after the company allegedly breached the APBI’s Code of Practice when a high-ranking employee provided late night drinks to healthcare professionals attending a medical congress. An anonymous healthcare professional provided the information, and said a good deal of alcohol had apparently been consumed by those present. Bayer did not dispute that the employee bought drinks for the physicians, but the company took exception with the characterization that a good deal of alcohol had been consumed, and said that only £28.15 was spent.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) wants to slow down the physician spend reporting requirements that the pharmaceutical industry is proposing. The group supports increased transparency, but feels reporting “tea and biscuit” payments would be administratively cumbersome and weaken the transparency system. The Association sent a letter to the group working on the requirements, asking for certain limits on transparency. The limits requested include a $500 starting point for payments to be reported; a two year window for the reports to be available; and a requirement for patients to supply an e-mail address when they want to access the registry of spend data.

The FDA delivered an early gift for medical mobile app developers. The agency announced it will regulate medical mobile apps that turn smartphones into a medical device or ones that allow an attachment, like a blood pressure cuff, to be plugged into a smartphone.

It’s been a long time coming, but at the Food and Drug Law Institute’s recent Advertising and Promotion Conference, OPDP chief, Tom Abrams, said he expects the OPDP to meet the July deadline set by Congress for the release of guidance on the use of social media. So, until the guidance is released, how does the industry handle product promotion in the social media world? One panel of experts at the conference suggested a review of OPDP Warning and Untitled Letters involving web based advertising could provide some clues as to FDA’s current thinking. Panel members noted that the FDA was focusing on claims in testimonials and case studies, as well as fair balance and accuracy.

And so ends the News in Review for this week. If your end of year plans (we know, we’re rushing things) include the distribution of mobile devices to field and home office staff, the PharmaCertify™ suite of commercial compliance modules are accessible on PCs or iPads and offer the up-to-date content your learners need where they need it most – in the field and at their fingetips.

Have a great week everyone.

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