Compliance News in Review, May 27, 2015

Legislation nullifying the need to report payments associated with CME moves to the House of Representatives for a vote, a new article in the NEJM offers thought proving insight on the relationship between industry and physicians, and OPDP issues untitled letters to two pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The monotonous strains of Pomp and Circumstance fill the air…graduation season is here! From kindergarten to college, students are donning caps, gowns, cords and stoles in celebration of their academic achievement. If you happen to have a student crossing the graduation stage this spring/summer, congratulations! We hope the commencement address is at least as thought provoking as this one. While you’re sitting there waiting for your loved one’s name to be announced, feel free to fill the time with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The 21st Century Cures Bill graduates from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and moves on to a vote by the whole House. The legislation aims to improve healthcare through support for research and development and by streamlining regulations. If passed, the law would nullify the requirement for reporting payments associated with CME; require the FDA to provide guidance on the sharing of health economic information; and require the FDA to issue guidance on the sharing of truthful, not misleading scientific information about off-label uses of drugs.

A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine explores the relationship between physicians and the industry. The article suggests the need for a reasoned approach when addressing conflicts of interest. The author acknowledges that conflicts exist, but that there are benefits to the physician industry relationship that shouldn’t be discarded simply because such relationships with industry are perceived as a negative.

Over a period of five days, the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) issued two untitled letters. Until this point, the agency had issued only four letters this year. The first letter, issued to Oak Pharmaceuticals, dealt with misleading statements on an exhibit banner. The statements did not include information about risks or material information about the approved indication of the product. According to OPDP, the only reference to prescribing and safety information on the banner was a directive to talk to a representative at the company’s booth.

The second letter was issued to Actavis over misleading statements on a Watson Pharmaceutical product webpage. The OPDP said the webpage was misleading because it contained unsubstantiated claims. The agency cited a specific marketing statement indicating the drug would help with conditions (sleep disturbance and work productivity) for which there was no evidence in the clinical studies.

When training about promotional speech, life sciences companies often focus on off-label statements, and with good reason. Off-label promotion continues to be a dominant issue in False Claims Act cases. However, other promotional speech issues should not be ignored or forgotten. The OPDP has least one letter every month so far in 2015. Additionally, the agency continues to dedicate considerable resources to educate healthcare providers about its Bad Ad program. That’s why promotional speech training needs to go beyond off-label, and address the need for company representatives to present the benefits and the risks of the products they promote.

Enjoy the week everyone!

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