Compliance News in Review, December 10, 2015

One of the great traditions of the Christmas season is the performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker by ballet companies and dance schools around the world. Whether performed by professionals or students, the ballet is full of magic and fantasy. A young girl, Clara (or Marie, depending on the production), receives a nutcracker, which comes to life, fights an army of giant rats, and then whisks Clara away to land of sweets ruled over by the Sugarplum Fairy. Almost as delightful as the prospects of watching giant rodents fight on stage is what’s been happening in the world of life science compliance. Places everyone! Time for the Compliance News in Review.

Standard Bank is taking a bow as the first company to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Serious Fraud Office over violations of the U.K. Bribery Act. The company was accused of failing to prevent bribery by an allied person. The DPA remains in effect for three years and requires the bank to pay $32.6 million; submit to a review of its anti-bribery policies by an independent reviewer and make any changes recommended by the reviewer; and cooperate with authorities in any other matters that arise from the indictment.

It’s not a dream Clara, the DOJ announced it has recovered $3.5 billion in False Claims Act cases in 2015. As in years past, healthcare fraud represented the lion’s share of the recoveries. In 2015, healthcare fraud cases totaled nearly $2 billion. Cases against the pharma industry represented $96 million of that total. It was a good year for qui tam relators as well. Of the $2.8 billion recovered from qui tam cases, a record $1.1 billion came from cases in which the U.S. chose not to intervene.

Harvard Medical School has made a slight change to its conflict of interest policy. The school is relaxing a policy that prohibited faculty from accepting equipment or other support from a private company in which they have equity, or from a public company in which they hold equity of $30,000 or more. The school will now allow faculty conducting basic research to petition for an exclusion from the rule if they can show that the benefits of the research outweigh any potential conflict of interest. Faculty would also need to show they have measures in place to guard against conflicts of interest.

Physicians may need Uncle Drosselmeyer to come guide them through the Sunshine Act sine a new study shows professional medical organizations aren’t doing so. The study appeared in the journal, Postgraduate Medicine. Researchers reviewed 59 articles and found there was very little guidance regarding the Act, and professional associations tended to focus on sharing broad information about reporting requirements. Rarely was there information regarding payments for research grants, trial participating and medical publication. The authors conclude that expert guidance about the Final Rule itself is needed, and suggest a lack of guidance may impact physician investigators’ participation in clinical trials and publishing results.

Clara’s trip to the land of sweets may have all been a dream conjured up by the mysterious Drosselmeyer, but after years of anticipation, the SFO is making its promise of dealing with corporate bribery a reality. In addition to the Standard Bank DPA, another corporation was recently charged by the SFO with violating the U.K. Bribery Act by failing to prevent bribery. If the lack of prosecutorial action has made training on the U.K. Bribery Act a lower priority for you, now is the time to move it up the priority list. Likewise, if you haven’t trained on the Act recently, a refresher course may be in order to ensure employees and third parties are up to speed on the requirements and your company’s policies.

That’s a wrap for this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Keep dancing everyone…and stay compliant.

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