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.

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