Compliance News in Review: the 2016 Year-End Summary

Here we are again. Another 584 million-mile (940 million km for our metric friends) trip around the sun is nearly complete. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the beginning of 2016 and now we’re picking out our favorite brand of champagne to celebrate its end. Before we break out the noisemakers and party favors, let’s take one last nostalgic look back at some of the life sciences compliance-related developments of 2016.

A new milestone was reached regarding HCP spend disclosure. The first disclosure reports under the EFPIA Disclosure Code were released in 2016. Gaining disclosure authorization from individual HCPs proved to be a challenge for the industry and the numbers of doctors who granted authorization ranged widely between countries. According to Britain’s pharmaceutical trade association, ABPI, 70% of their HCPs granted authorization and in Ireland, just over half of HCPs did so. In other transparency developments, ten of Canada’s top drug firms announced plans to voluntarily disclose aggregate physician and healthcare organization payment data. The movement was started by GSK Canada, and other multinational firms including Abbvie, Purdue, BMS, and Lilly followed.

Drug pricing was a big story in 2016. Former CEOs from Turing and Valeant were called to testify before Congress about drug price hikes, and Mylan’s CEO was called to testify over dramatic increases in the cost of an EpiPen. Laws that would require drug companies to disclose information about their pricing decisions were proposed in several states, and a bill was introduced at the federal level with similar requirements. Even with those high profile stories making headlines, only one pricing disclosure law successfully passed this year – Vermont. That law requires a select group of manufacturers to provide information about the factors related to price increases.

A handful of former Insys employees had an eventful year. A former sales representative entered a guilty plea to charges of fraud, and a district sales manager and a several of top executives were all arrested on charges they paid kickbacks to doctors. The drug at the center of the charges is the opioid painkiller, fentanyl. Prosecutors and enforcement agencies claim the individuals offered a variety of kickbacks to doctors to increase prescriptions and encouraged them to prescribe it for unapproved uses.

2016 was an active year for settlements related to bribery cases. GSK, AstraZeneca, SciClone, and Novartis all entered into settlements with the SEC over activities conducted by subsidiaries in China. Orthofix and Teva both set aside cash in anticipation of resolving the FCPA-related charges. Olympus entered into a $22.8 million settlement with the DOJ to resolve charges that a subsidiary covering Latin America paid bribes to healthcare professionals working in government facilities in order to increase sales of product.

We saw a couple of legal “victories” for the industry in the debate over sharing truthful off-label information. In the Amarin case, the FDA decided not to appeal a judge’s decision that allowed the company to share truthful off-label information about its fish oil product. In addition, in proposed jury instructions for a medical device case, the DOJ indicated that it is “not a crime for a device company or its representatives to give doctors wholly truthful and non-misleading information about the unapproved use of a device.”

With a string of legal decisions favoring the industry, the FDA held a public forum in November concerning the ability of drug and device makers to share off-label information. The primary topic was whether the agency needs to revise its regulations considering recent legal decisions and the forum was attended by various stakeholders representing both sides of the argument.

With that, we complete our look back at 2016 and the stories that made headlines in the world of life science compliance. It was an eventful year, and everyone at the Compliance News in Review is excited to see what the new year holds. Thanks for joining us throughout the year and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and compliant 2017!

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