Compliance News in Review, November 24, 2015

The new nominee to head the FDA faces some tough questions on Capitol Hill, state prosecutors join to investigate potential false claims made by pharmacies, and the AMA institutes a policy calling for a ban on DTC advertising.

Gobble, gobble! Bring on the food coma, it’s Thanksgiving! We can practically smell the turkey and stuffing (or “dressing,” depending on what part of the country you call home) now! While the holiday doesn’t hold the same lore for Hollywood as Christmas, it has inspired at least one memorable sitcom scene. The food, football, parades, family and friends…we’re ready for Thursday! In the meantime, we’ll pass the time with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

President Obama’s nominee to head the FDA was talking turkey during a recent confirmation hearing. Questions for Dr. Robert Califf were generally tame, but a couple of senators got tough with questions about his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and drug pricing. Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her concern over what she described as “significant financial support” from pharmaceutical companies that Dr. Califf received while he was a researcher at Duke University. The doctor objected to the idea that the support biased his research in any way, and said copies of industry-funded research contracts would be provided to the committee. Senator Bernie Sanders was the only senator expressing an objection to the nomination, saying the FDA needed a commissioner that would be aggressive in fighting for lower drug costs, and Califf isn’t that person. Much of the discussion focused on the backlog of generic drug approvals at the FDA and Califf agreed that the agency could improve the approval rate.

Federal prosecutors in Florida, California, Texas and Mississippi are gathering around the table with the Department of Defense to investigate fraudulent claims made to the Tricare program by compounding pharmacies. Allegedly, one marketing group went so far as to use social media to promote compound creams to military members and their spouses. In the 2015 fiscal year, Tricare paid $1.75 billion for compounded drugs, which is nearly 20% more than the program paid in 2012 for these drugs.

Time to make a change to the drug marketing recipe, according to the American Medical Association. At an interim meeting of the Association, a policy calling for the ban of direct to consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs in medical devices was adopted. The new policy is based on the idea that money poured into the marketing of drugs is inflating prices, and DTC advertising drives a demand for expensive new medications, which are not always appropriate. In addition to calling for a ban on DTC advertising, the policy will establish a task force focused on lowering the cost of drugs by advocating for more competition in the sector and transparency in drug pricing.

Before we close this edition of the Compliance News in Review, we’d like to take a moment to say how thankful we are for all you, our dear readers. Whether you’re celebration leads you over the river and through the woods, or keeps you closer to your own home, we wish you happy and safe Thanksgiving.

See you in December!

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