Friday the 13th Brings Multiple Settlements for One Unlucky Company

CMS posts new Open Payments thresholds, MedTech Europe revises its Code, California deals with two new pharmaceutical laws, and multiple settlements are announced for one “unlucky” pharmaceutical company…in this Friday the 13th edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Be careful what you wish for, Freaky Friday (a.k.a. Friday the 13th) has arrived. Steer clear of those sidewalk cracks, black cats, and broken mirrors! We prefer to focus more on the “Friday” part of the date stamp rather than the “13th.” Whether you’re working for the weekend, or just counting down the minutes until it officially begins, we offer the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review to help you whittle away the hours until the superstitions have subsided.

Change doesn’t have to always be scary. MedTech Europe, a joint venture of EucoMed and European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association, changed its Code of Ethical Business Practice. Changes include the phasing out of direct sponsorship for HCPs to attend medical conferences; enhanced transparency of educational grants; and new guidelines for demonstration products and samples. In addition, starting in 2018, members will only be able to provide educational grant support for meetings that have been vetted by the organization.

The “lucky” numbers for the Open Payments reporting thresholds for 2018 have been posted by CMS. The small payments, or de minimis threshold, was raised to $10.49, and the annual aggregate threshold was raised to $104.90.

California passed two new laws affecting the pharmaceutical industry. First, SB 17 requires health plans and insurers to report information about drug pricing. The information will be compiled into a report showing how drug pricing effects health insurance premiums. The law also requires drug manufacturers to notify purchasers 90 days in advance if a drug’s wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) is going to increase.

AB 265 prohibits prescription drug manufacturers from offering assistance to lower out of pocket costs, if a lower-cost generic equivalent drug is available. Exceptions include the discounts required under an FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS); single-tablet drug regimens for the treatment of HIV or AIDS that are as effective as a multi-tablet regimen; and completion of step therapy or prior authorization requirements for a branded drug, as mandated by the individual’s health coverage.

Time to start throwing copious amounts of salt over the shoulder at Aegerion. The company pled guilty and pay over $35 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it violated the FDCA, HIPAA, and the False Claims Act. According to the Department of Justice, Aegerion did not follow the proper Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy when educating prescribers about the rare cholesterol condition its drug was approved to treat. The government also claimed the company filed a misleading REMS report and promoted the drug for the general treatment of high cholesterol, all in violation of the FDCA.

Aegerion also resolved civil charges it violated the False Claims Act. The company allegedly shared misleading information about its drug, altered or falsified statements of medical necessity or prior authorization to federal healthcare programs, and defrayed the copay obligations of patients in federal healthcare programs, which is a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Following the settlement, the patient assistance organization involved, Patient Services, Inc. (PSI), acknowledged it received a subpoena from the DOJ. PSI said it had cooperated with the government in the case. The organization said it operates “under guidelines set by the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and does not funnel funds for manufacturers.”

Some “strange magic” leads to a $13 million FCPA settlement for Alere to resolve charges it violated the FCPA. The company allegedly paid bribes to meet its revenue targets. According to the SEC, company subsidiaries in India and Colombia used distributors or consultants to make improper payments to foreign officials. The agency said the company failed to maintain adequate internal controls to prevent the payments and recorded the payments incorrectly.

With that, we close out this superstitious edition of the Compliance News in Review. Thanks for reading! Stay safe out there as you navigate the potholes and pitfalls that allegedly lurk in shadows, and no matter what, don’t walk under that ladder!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Compliant Product Promotion

In keeping with our mission of helping you reduce risk and strengthen your compliance culture, we present our top do’s and don’ts for promoting products to healthcare professionals:

  1. Do…be balanced and accurate! Present the benefits and the risks of a product equally.
    Don’t…omit or minimize the risks associated with the use of a product, or exaggerate its effectiveness.
  2. Do…stay on-label! All promotional statements about a product must adhere to the product label.
    Don’t…promote any off-label uses of a product.
  3. Do…use approved promotional materials! Use promotional materials provided and approved by the company to promote a product.
    Don’t…Use retired promotional materials or create your own materials to promote a product. Do not add logos, names or other product information to candies, cookies, or other items, without prior approval.
  4. Do…be careful about comparisons! Only share competing product information that has been approved by the company.
    Don’t…Make unsubstantiated comparative claims about a competitor’s product.
  5. Do…spread the knowledge! Share approved scientific publications or journal reprints with healthcare professionals.
    Don’t…alter any approved publications before you share them with the approved audience.

Thanks for reading!

Life Sciences Compliance Congress West: A Preview

CBI’s 8th Annual Life Sciences Compliance Congress West kicks off in San Francisco in two short weeks. During the packed two-day conference, an esteemed lineup of industry professionals and government regulators will address the emerging risks facing life sciences companies. It’s a great opportunity to share notes and best practices with your peers and industry leaders. If you’re considering attending, we can help with a discount on the registration fee.

In the meantime, we’ve perused the agenda to note the sessions that hold the most interest:

Day 1

Session: Industry’s Guide to GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, or GDPR, applies to companies that control or process the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of geographic location. That’s a wide reach, and your employees need to understand how their role helps ensure compliance with this new and potentially confusing regulation.

Session: Navigate the Complexities of Patient Assistant Programs (PAPs), Reimbursement Support and Patient Services Compliance in an Era of Ambiguity

Industry assistance for patients is an emerging enforcement area in the U.S. and abroad. Several U.S. companies have received subpoenas from the DOJ centered on their relationship with patients assistance organizations. This session covers the compliance issues related to patient support and the strategies for reducing risk.

Session: Small to Mid-Sized Boot Camp

We may be a little biased on this one, since our own Dan O’Connor, Senior Vice President of PharmaCertify, will join Jim Schneider of Seattle Genetics and Jane Wright-Mitchell of AcelRx to cover compliance governance considerations and key elements of compliance program development. It’s a must-attend for anyone building out a curriculum for an emerging company.

Day 2

Keynote Session: A Journey to the Dark Side of International Business and Steps to Protect Your Organization

Presented by a former FCPA Violator turned FBI/UK Cooperator, the session covers a range of international business practices and pitfalls. We expect topics to include privacy; patient interactions; bribery; and compliance risks when conducting business internationally, all critical information whether you’re updating an existing compliance training curriculum, or building one from scratch.

Session: Operations Management — Align Compliance Strategy with Emerging Risks on the Horizon for 2018

As new life sciences compliance risks emerge, training content, and the methods by which those risks are addressed, need to evolve. This session may offer tips for identifying curriculum gaps as well as the overall program adjustments needed to strengthen your curriculum and reduce risk.

Summary

We’re looking forward to catching up with our friends and clients at the 8th Annual Life Sciences Compliance Congress West. If you’re attending, don’t forget to stop by our booth to say hi and see demos of our newest Compliance Foundations™ eLearning modules, QuickTakes™ reinforcement tools, and compliance workshops. While there, don’t forget to enter our drawing to win a JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker.

See you in San Francisco!

Top Ten Compliance Training Mistakes

With apologies to the recently unretired (and bearded) David Letterman, welcome to the first edition of the PharmaCertify Compliance Training Top Ten List. We’ve witnessed a range of missteps and mishaps in individual eLearning modules and curricula over the years and here is a list of the more common ones:

  1. Not refreshing the content regularly. Even if most of the content hasn’t changed, the way in which it is presented, as well as the delivery method, should be updated.
  2. Topic overload. Focus on the most important content for training and use other tools to supplement the training.
  3. Reliance on one type of training. Blended is best.
  4. Training is overloaded with legalese. Use plain English as much as possible to avoid confusion.
  5. Too much content in one course. People retain information better when it is presented in smaller chunks. Break down those 45-60 minute courses into more digestible bites of 25 – 30 minutes.
  6. Too many words on the screen. A screen packed with text leads to cognitive overload. Only use your main points on screen with engaging graphics, and leave the rest to the narrator.
  7. All substance, no style. Content is important, but so are engaging graphics and interactivity. Learners want to be active participants in their training.
  8. All sizzle, no steak. An overabundance of graphics, videos, and music also leads to cognitive overload. If the bells and whistles don’t help the learning, your message is lost.
  9. Not considering the goals for the training. “Checking a box” isn’t a goal. Determine and define the learning objectives before you begin to write the content.
  10. One size does not fit all. Include examples, scenarios, and case studies that are relevant and applicable to the targeted audience.

Thanks for reading!

Compliance News in Review, September 22, 2017

Reprimands in the UK, opioid manufacturers face another investigatory group, and registration processes for Nevada representatives, all in this week’s Compliance News in Review.

Ready or not, Fall is here! Leaves are turning, football is back, the oppressive heat of Summer is fading, and pumpkin spice everything is available. We are certainly fans of Autumn here in the offices of the News in Review and we’re ready to break out the flannel shirts, boots, and maybe a knit cap to enjoy the cooler evenings ahead. We are also fans of compliance! So, grab a pumpkin spice latte and settle in to this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

A nip in the air, and a nip at the marketing practices of several companies by the ABPI. The industry organization reprimanded Pfizer, Novartis, Astellas UK, Astellas Europe, and TOR Generics for breaches of its Code. Pfizer and Novartis were both cited for misleading promotion, and unclear materials used by representatives. Astellas UK and Astellas Europe voluntarily admitted that prescribing information for several of their products omitted references to adverse events. Lastly, TOR Generics was accused of promoting an unlicensed product, which was expected to be a prescription-only product, in a public magazine.

A new team is investigating opioid marketing. 41 state attorneys general formed a coalition to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors. The group subpoenaed several top manufacturers, and wholesale distributors Amerisource, Cardinal, and McKesson. The AGs want to know if manufacturers deceived healthcare professionals about product efficacy and addictiveness.

Time to turn over a new leaf in Nevada. The state published draft procedures for the registration of pharmaceutical representatives. Individuals who work in Nevada for at least five days a year and communicate with healthcare professionals, or participate in the activities listed below, must register with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS):

  • Marketing of prescription drugs to healthcare providers, pharmacists or pharmacy employees, and employees of medical facilities
  • Meeting with healthcare providers to answer questions about product use and benefits, or to provide discussion and product information and resources to those providers or other decision makers while representing the manufacturer or supporting promotional efforts of the manufacturer
  • Distributing FDA regulated product samples and product information

These activities are excluded under the law:

  • Attending a conference in Nevada that is not exclusively marketed to Nevada healthcare professionals
  • Activities related to clinical trials, investigational drugs, or Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies
  • Activities performed by wholesale distributors who do not represent a single manufacturer

Companies are required to notify DHHS as employees are hired and terminated, and employees must be registered with DHHS within 30 days of hire.

With that, we wrap up this edition of the Compliance News in Review and head outback to roast marshmallows and make smores! If you can’t join us by the fire pit, we’ll catch you back here for our next issue.

Thanks for reading!

Compliance News in Review, September 8, 2017

Attention students! This week in the news: an opioid marketing Warning Letter; more state level transparency requirementss; and Novo Nordisk learns a tough lesson about product marketing.

The wheels on the bus are going ‘round and ‘round for children all over the country. School is back in session. Time to sharpen those pencils (do kids still use pencils?) and organize that Trapper Keeper. Sorry kids, but we kind of like this time of the year. After all, the deals on office supplies can’t be beat! Can one ever have enough index cards and three prong folders? While we go bask in the glow of our school supply haul, we’ll leave you with a little reading assignment: the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Opioid manufacturer, Cipher Pharmaceuticals, didn’t have a letter sent home by the teacher, but it was issued a Warning Letter by the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion for misbranding its drug, ConZip. The company licenses the drug to Vertical Pharmaceuticals for sales. The letter references a sales aid that failed to disclose the risks associated with use of the product.

Don’t offer the teacher too many of those apples…at least in New Jersey. In the Garden State, Governor Christie wants to place restrictions on transfers of value to HCPs. The regulation limits compensation for “bona fide” arrangements up to $10,000 per year. It requires the arrangements to be in writing, with the HCP’s qualifications clearly stated in the agreement. The regulation also prohibits receipt of lavish meals, gift cards, and other items of a personal benefit to HCPs. Exclusions are made for payments for speaking at CME events and provision of items for patient education. The regulation will be published to the New Jersey Register in early October and a public hearing is scheduled for October 19.

Two industry trade associations are putting their civics education to work. PhRMA and BIO have filed suit against Nevada over the state’s transparency law. The groups claim the law is unconstitutional, and is preempted by federal law, and they have asked the court to put a halt to the implementation or enforcement of what they consider to be the problematic parts of the law. A representative from BIO said the law effectively establishes price controls on diabetes medication, which in turn will reduce private investment in biomedical innovation. A PhRMA representative said the law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with federal and state laws that protect intellectual property and trade secrets.

The city of Chicago is jumping onboard the drug pricing transparency bus. An ordinance has been proposed that will require manufacturers to report price increases 90 days in advance of sales. The ordinance also proposes the establishment of a Prescription Drug Price Review Board to monitor prices, and a hotline for the public to report information about price increases.

Novo Nordisk agreed to pay over $58 million to settle allegations it violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the False Claims Act. According to the DOJ, sales representatives downplayed or mislead HCPs about the risk of a rare cancer associated with the use of Victoza when detailing the drug to healthcare professionals. The company will pay $12.5 million in disgorgement for violating the FDCA, and $48.5 million for violating the False Claims Act.

With that, the final bell rings on this edition of the News in Review. We hope the return to the post-Summer school routine is a smooth and seamless one for all involved. We’ll see you around the schoolyard during recess with another edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Compliance News in Review, August 21, 2017

Opioid investigations expand; the FDA plans drug advertising studies; DOJ units team up for healthcare sector FCPA investigations; the Sunshine Act is out in South Korea; and a big settlement could signal a new enforcement avenue; all casting a shadow in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Here comes the sun, and the moon, and a shadow. It’s eclipse fever! The total eclipse over the continental U.S. was one for the record books, and had people flocking to places like Alliance, NE, Hopkinsville, KY, and Red Bank, SC. If you couldn’t make it to the path of totality this time, you have seven years to plan for the next event.

The shadow of the investigation into the business practices opioid makers use continues to spread. In an SEC filing, Mylan revealed it has received a subpoena from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information about its opioid business practices. The company, a relatively small player in the opioid market, said it is cooperating with the request.

The FDA, hoping to shed some light on disclosures in drug advertising, has proposed two studies that will focus on how safety information is perceived. The first study will involve patient recall of important safety information presented in print, direct to consumer ads. The second will include oncologists, primary care physicians, and non-oncology mid-level practitioners. It will focus on the effectiveness of disclosures related to preliminary or descriptive clinical and scientific data.

The DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section announced a partnership between its Healthcare Fraud Unit’s Corporate Strike Force and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecutors. Speaking at an anticorruption conference, the acting chief of the Criminal Fraud Unit said, “This increased coordination will ensure that companies, their executives, employees, and agents are held to account for the payment of bribes and kickbacks to foreign and domestic officials and actors regardless of the market.” He also urged companies to empower compliance teams to take steps to make their anticorruption programs better.

South Korea is the latest nation to bring sunshine to industry-physician relationships. The country has enacted a transparency law like the U.S. Sunshine Act. The law applies to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and covers a wide range of recipients including pharmacists, herbalists, and acupuncturists, in addition to physicians. Transfers of value covered by the new law include product samples, academic conference sponsorships, food, beverage, and other items (e.g. pens, notepads). Transfers of value must be reported on one of seven reporting templates, and companies must begin collecting data on January 31, 2018.

Is a bad moon rising over industry relationships with patient assistance charities? Recently, United Therapeutics announced it had reserved $210 million in anticipation of a settlement with the government over activities involving a copay assistance charity. Other companies have disclosed that they are subject to investigations as well. Charities do not face the same restrictions as pharmaceutical companies when offering co-pay assistance and the contributions companies make to charities can be considered kickbacks. According to an attorney with Morgan and Morgan, the United Therapeutics announcement is likely to send “shock waves” through the industry.

With that, we end this shadowy edition of the Compliance News in Review. Until next time, we leave you with a total eclipse of the sun, er…Total Eclipse of the Heart.