Compliance News in Review, October 14, 2015

A survey of physicians in the UK reveals negative opinions of the pharmaceutical industry, another pharmaceutical company settles kickback allegations with the DOJ, BMS enters into an FCPA settlement, and new legislation aimed at adding to industry reporting requirements is introduced in the Senate.

The boys of summer are singing their swan song. The MLB playoffs have begun! If your team is in the hunt, congratulations, but unless you’re pulling for the Cubs, getting too excited is useless. Robert Zemeckis says the Cubs will take it all, via Back to the Future 2 of course. There’s just one problem though, Miami won’t be the Cubs opponent, as predicted by the film, but hey when one predicts the future, there are bound to be just few hiccups. While we wait to test the accuracy of the director’s clairvoyance, let’s take look at the more recent past, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

First up to the plate are a group of physicians who are unhappy with the pharmaceutical industry. A recent survey of physicians in the UK found that almost half of the respondents had a negative opinion of the pharmaceutical industry. The primary reason was the belief the industry focused too much on sales and marketing. Other reasons included the lack of understanding of physician needs and budgetary pressures. The negative view is leading to increased resistance to face-to-face meetings with sales representatives. Ironically, the survey showed physicians who did meet with sales representatives were less likely to have a negative opinion of the industry.

After a meeting on the mound with the DOJ, PharMerica has agreed to pay $9.25 million to resolve kickback allegations. According to the DOJ, the company, which provides pharmacy services to nursing homes, received and solicited kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories in exchange for promoting the use of the drug Depakote for nursing home patients.

After some allegedly foul behavior in China, BMS has entered into a $14 million settlement with the SEC to resolve FCPA charges. The SEC alleged that BMS China sales representatives bribed doctors and then inaccurately recorded the bribes as a business expenses. The SEC claims BMS failed to respond to bribery red flags, and failed to investigate employee claims that fake invoices were being created to hide the bribes.

Industry and physician groups are not happy about a proposal by CMS to include Open Payments data on the Physician Compare website. In July, CMS sought comments on a proposal to include Open Payments data on the Physician Compare website. AdvaMed and BIO both pointing out that the payments would be presented without proper context. PhRMA said that CMS should focus on improving how the data is presented on the Open Payments website before sharing it on another website. The AMA expressed similar sentiments, saying it was opposed to the sharing of data that physicians haven’t validated as accurate, and pointed out there was still much work to be done in this area on the Open Payments website.

Team Sunshine Act is back in the game. Senators Grassley and Blumenthal introduced legislation that will require drug and device manufacturers to report payments and transfers of value to mid-level practitioners. The legislation is called the Provider Payments Sunshine Act, and if passed, would go into effect in 2017. Senator Grassley said the law closes a void in the current requirements, and it would provide a complete picture of the payments provided to healthcare providers. Senator Blumenthal said all providers need to be “held accountable,” and that this level of disclosure is necessary “in today’s world.”

Transparency continues to be a hot topic in the industry, both in the US and abroad. We’ll be watching to see if the law proposed by Senators Grassley and Blumenthal makes it out of the Senate, or if more states take up the initiative to pass laws requiring the reporting of payments to mid-level practitioners.

The evolving nature of transparency laws and requirements requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to actively train and communicate with employees about what’s expected. Effective training is needed to ensure compliance with the laws and requirements, and, as importantly, to work toward clearer communications between sales representatives and the healthcare providers whose information will be disclosed.

Have a great week everyone!

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