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!

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