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.

Compliance News in Review, July 31, 2017

A whistleblower settlement, the effect of a recent cyberattack on one company’s drug supply, transparency in Ontario, and the growth of CME, all served for your approval in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

It is the quintessential American food, even if it didn’t originate here; it’s the hamburger. Nothing beats a good burger, even during the hot dog days of summer (see what we did there?). The tasty entrée even inspired the bard of gulf and western music, Jimmy Buffet, to write a song extoling its virtues. So, how do you like your burger? With slaw? Kraut? Chili? Our mouths are watering just pondering the possibilities! Before we fire up the grill here at the News in Review World Headquarters, we’ll serve a tasty treat of a different flavor – the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

This is hardly minced meat. Celgene has agreed to pay $280 million to settle claims in a whistleblower suit that accused the company of promoting two of its cancer products for off-label purposes. The whistleblower, a former employee, claims the company directly marketed the drugs for the off-label uses and hid risks of blood clots from physicians. Celgene did not admit to wrongdoing in the settlement.

Still in a bit of pickle following the Petya cyberattack, Merck has warned that some drug supplies may be disrupted as it continues to rebound from the attack. The company’s R&D and manufacturing operations have not yet fully recovered and there may be temporary delays in filling orders for some products.

Ontario doctors may be flipping over a recent judicial decision that will allow the payments they receive from the government insurance program to be published. The Toronto Star filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the names of the top 100 billers. The Ontario Health Ministry refused to provide the names, saying it would be an invasion of privacy. Two doctor groups and the Ontario Medical Association also fought the release of names, arguing that doing so “accomplishes nothing other than naming and shaming.” The judges disagreed, saying the “public is entitled to information in the possession of their governments so that the public may, among other things, hold their governments accountable.”

The Accreditation Council of Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) 2016 report on the growth of CME finds an increase in the number of events (7%), as well as an increase in the number of instructional hours (9%). The study also shows the number of activities and interactions has increased steadily since 2010. ACCME President and CEO, Dr. Graham McMahon, noted that there are currently more than 3,000 hours of CME available to healthcare providers.

That brings us to the end of another “well done” edition of the Compliance News in Review. We’ll see you right back here for the next summertime treatise, and in the meantime, we leave you with a few tips for barbecuing the perfect burger (olive oil…who knew?).

Have a great week!

Compliance News in Review, July 7, 2017

Canadians, Californians, and Mainers are all on the hunt for transparency. Will they find “gold” they seek? Find out in this week’s News in Review.

There’s gold in them thar hills! Seriously. A number of years ago, a man hid an estimated $2 million treasure of gold and jewels somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, leaving only a cryptic poem to guide treasure hunters to the stash. At the time, he said he hoped it would inspire folk to get up off their couches and explore nature. Many have, and unfortunately, a couple of them met an untimely end during that search. As far as anyone knows, the treasure is still out there for the taking, but before we break out our atlases and sharpen our pickaxes, let’s dig into the news of the day in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Pharma companies will be able to hold on to their doubloons if an amendment to the California bill prohibiting gifts and restricting payments to doctors stands. Legislators eliminated the penalties associated with the bill, but added a provision that prohibits doctors from receiving payments for speaking or serving as faculty at events that are not accredited by the ACCME or a similar organization.

A pair of Canadian doctors are on the hunt for transparency with a program intended to gain support for more industry/physician transparency. According to one of the doctors, “interaction with industry is everywhere and a lot of progress has come from collaborating,” but he worries that trust will be eroded if they continue to “keep relationships in the dark.”

Providing some clues to the transparency hunt, ten of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada released information on transfers of value they provided to healthcare professionals and organizations. The effort was headed by GSK, and included AbbVie, Merck, and Eli Lilly. Total payments for all the companies came in just under $50 million and covered the 2016 calendar year. Critics complained the data provided little real transparency because the figures represented the companies’ aggregate payments to all doctors or healthcare organizations, rather than individual practitioners or organizations.

The release of this data prompted one treasure hunter, Ontario’s health minister, to announce he will investigate the concept of requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose physician payment data (a la the U.S. Sunshine Act). He said the voluntary release of recent spend data by certain pharmaceutical companies was a good start, and that the government is “committed to strengthening transparency across the healthcare sector.” Consultations into the matter are scheduled for this summer.

Trekking across the Canadian border to Maine, we discover the legislature has passed a bill that will curtail payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors. The bill prohibits the provision of “cash gifts” but allows non-monetary gifts of “minimal value.” It also allows doctors to receive payments for speaking about research at “legitimate educational conferences.”

For those wishing to do a little prospecting, the Open Payments data for the 2016 is now available. Nearly 1,500 companies reported transactions totaling $8.1 billion. Just over half of the $8 billion went toward research. A billion dollars was paid in ownership interest, and just under $3 billion fell in the general payments categories. Nearly 12 million records were published this year, covering 631,000 physicians and 1,146 teaching hospitals.

There’s a certain theme running through this week’s news bites. Transparency. Governments, academia, and special interest groups, all extol the need for transparency in the relationships between life science companies and healthcare professionals. Although most of the heavy lifting regarding data is typically handled by a small group of dedicated data hounds, others in the organization need to be aware of the laws and their restrictions.

Those who interact with healthcare professionals need to know the types of information that is reported and understand their role in assuring the accurate and timely collection of the data. As the saying goes, “garbage in: garbage out,” and considering that many of these laws carry financial penalties for reporting errant data, companies certainly want to take steps to reduce the “garbage.”

Well, we’ve reached the end of the trail on this edition of the Compliance News in Review. We’ll see you right back here for the next edition.

Thanks for reading!

Compliance News in Review, June 13, 2017

States with new laws, lawsuits and more; HHS says drug pricing is a top issue; the AMA takes aim at DTC ads again; and transparency efforts and more from Europe…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The magic, mystery, and “monstering” of the summer movies season is in full swing! From super-heroes to lush gothic tales, there’s something for everyone this summer. There’s nothing like escaping to the theater on a rainy summer day. Can’t you just smell the popcorn and taste the Milk Duds? Before you head off to take in the latest blockbuster or art house feature, silence your cell phone and enjoy this screening of the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

We begin with a trilogy of compelling releases. The Nevada legislature passed a bill that would have required makers of diabetes drugs to report drug pricing information to the State. The bill was forwarded to the governor, who promptly vetoed it. Undaunted, State senators revised the bill; removing the requirements to which the governor objected and adding provisions that apply to all drug manufacturers. It was passed, and in an ending fit for Hollywood, the governor has said he is “proud to sign” the new bill. The law will require manufacturers to report pricing for diabetes drugs, and all manufacturers must now supply a list of sales representatives who work in the State. Additionally, all transfers of value from Nevada sales representative to HCPs must be reported each year, including those to mid-level practitioners and office staff.

It’s a wrap on a new law concerning generic drug pricing in Maryland. Generic drug makers will now be fined when a price increase causes a product’s wholesale acquisition price (WAC) to increase by more than 50% in one year, or if the drug’s WAC is greater than $80. Maryland’s expressed concern that the bill did not address the cost of patented drugs and devices, and that it may result in citizens not having access to some generic drugs. Concerns aside, the governor did not veto the bill. The law will go into effect October 1.

The Washington D.C. Department of Health has posted several FAQs related to AccessRx. The FAQs cover a variety of issues including reporting timelines, advertising expenses, and gift reporting.

HHS Secretary, Dr. Tom Price, says drug pricing is a coming attraction for the agency. In testimony before the senate budget committee, Price said the president has directed him to develop proposals to lower drug costs. He also said meetings with stakeholders have already taken place.

This attraction is rated “P” for pricing. At the AMA’s annual meeting, the group will consider a proposal urging drug manufacturers to list drug prices in DTC ads. The proposal was introduced by several New England medical societies, and advocates who have been pushing federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA, to compel drug companies to include retail pricing information in DTC ads. The proposal will need to be approved by the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates before being presented to the larger body.

From the foreign film division, a story of transparency. German doctors will be able to voluntarily disclose payments they receive from drug companies in a database managed by the non-profit journalism group, Correctiv. According to a study conducted by Correctiv, 71,000 German doctors received 575 million Euros worth of payments from the industry last year. The study also found that only 29% of doctors were willing to have their payment information published.

Two companies have been publicly reprimanded for breaches of the ABPI Code of Practice. In one case, a media agency published the work it did for the company to promote the agency’s creative capabilities. The work was out-of-date and no longer accurate. Even though the company did not give the agency permission to publish the work, and voluntarily reported the incident, it was found to have violated Clause 2 of the Code of Practice; bringing discredit upon and reducing confidence in the industry. In the other breach, another company was reprimanded for distributing a patient support leaflet with inaccurate and misleading information. The company was asked to issue a corrective statement to the healthcare providers who had already received the leaflet.

The last story is a good reminder of the importance of making sure your compliance training extends to vendors and other third parties. In bribery cases, we see the damage that can be caused when third parties run afoul of laws and regulations. Vendors and other third parties need to be evaluated for the risk associated with their services and targeted training should be provided based on that risk.

With that, we roll the closing credits on this edition of the Compliance News in the Review. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you at the movies!

Compliance News in Review, May 22, 2017

Insider trading baseball; PhRMA changes the rules; shorter FCPA investigations; praise for Medicines Australia transparency efforts; and a Chinese television drama all about anticorruption. The heat is on in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The “official” start of summer is just around the corner and the sun, sand, and ‘squitos will be here before you can say “turn up the air conditioning.” Considering the late winter-like weather many have been experiencing around the U.S. (we feel your pain Colorado), a little heat and humidity sounds like a good idea. Before we restock the sunblock supply and head for the beach (or “down the shore” if you happen to reside in New Jersey), let’s review what has been heating up the newswires, with this issue of the Compliance News in Review.

A former “boy of summer” Doug DeCinces, was found guilty of insider trader for acting on non-public information related to the sale of a medical device company. Prosecutors claimed the former major league baseball player received information from his neighbor, the CEO of a medical device company, about the pending sale of the company to Abbott Laboratories. Prosecutors claimed DeCinces, who was found guilty on 14 felony counts, made stock trades based on the information and tipped others about the sale. His lawyer plans to file a motion for a new trial.

The heat is on at PhRMA. New rules regarding membership in the organization went into effect recently, and promptly led to the ouster of several companies. The new rules require member companies to spend at least 10% of sales on global research and development over three years. Companies must also spend at least $200 million a year on research. Seven companies were unable to meet the new requirements and lost their membership.

Some doctors felt the need to share their warm feelings for Medicines Australia’s transparency efforts. A pair of physicians, and the leader of the Greens party, who is also a doctor, penned a letter to the Australian Medical Journal, praising the organization’s move to increase transparency in industry/HCP relationships. The letter suggests that pharmaceutical and medical device companies follow Medicines Australia’s lead.

As the summer days grow longer, FCPA investigations could be getting shorter. During a conference, Trevor McFadden, acting principal deputy assistant attorney general, for the Department of Justice, expressed his hope that future FCPA investigations will “be measured in months, not years. FCPA thought leaders believe that narrowing the self-reporting window will help control the scope of investigations, but interviewing witnesses in foreign countries can be time consuming.

A television program focused on anti-corruption in government is heating up the Chinese airwaves. The Chinese government usually bans artistic endeavors related to anti-corruption, but the drama, In the Name of the People, has the support and “green-backing” of the government. The show follows the story of an upstanding detective who investigates government corruption in a fictional Chinese province. The program is the top show on Chinese television, and nearly a dozen similar programs are in production.

The focus on anticorruption efforts around the world continues to grow. Does your training extend beyond the FCPA to cover countries like China, Mexico, and Brazil? The newly update Compliance Foundations™ eLearning module, Global Anticorruption Laws introduces learners to the regulations, and the affect they have on their daily work lives and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in general. Contact us to see a content outline or demo.

Thanks for reading!