Compliance News in Review, April 19, 2017

The city of Chicago releases sales representative licensure rules; review and dispute time is here again; opioid manufacturers receive letters and negotiate settlements; and Australia proposes changes to its bribery law, in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

April showers may bring may flowers, but they also bring something else…the Boys of Summer. Major League baseball is back! Much of the buzz seems to center around a former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and his homerun prowess. Whether your team is off to a hot start (we’re looking at you Yankees fans) or surprisingly struggling (are the Blue Jays already too far out?), there’s plenty of time for the standings to change as the temperatures warm. For now, buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack and settle in for this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Our first story comes from Chicago, home of the 2016 World Series champion Cubs. The City has released draft rules for its pharmaceutical sales representative licensure ordinance. The initial license is $750.00. Like the rules in place for detailers in Washington DC, Chicago’s ordinance has a continuing professional education provision. Education provided by the rep’s company will not suffice in meeting the requirement unless the company applies for and receives approval from the city. The draft rules also require sales representatives to track their interactions with healthcare professionals.

April 1st was opening day for the Open Payment’s review and dispute period. Physicians and teaching hospitals are free to review recent submissions to the system and dispute items they believe are incorrect. The review and dispute period for the 2016 Program Year ends on May 15th.

Senator Claire McCaskill sent letters to a lineup of opioid manufacturers requesting that they provide information related to sales, marketing and education strategies used to promote their products. from which she wants some information. McCaskill acknowledged that most of the players in the opioid market act responsibly and she said the purpose of her investigation is to learn if any of the practices

Mallinckrodt has agreed to settle a DEA probe for $35 million. The settlement involved the company’s suspicious order monitoring program for controlled substances. The settlement is under review by the DOJ and DEA. In a statement, Mallinckrodt said it had not violated the law, and the settlement does not include an admission of liability.

Australia appears to be poised to move its bribery law up to the major leagues. Government officials there announced that several reforms were being considered to deal with bribery of foreign public officials. The reforms include the addition of a “corporate failure to prevent bribery” offence and use of deferred prosecution agreements to encourage self-reporting. Among the changes proposed, the definition of a foreign public official would include political candidates and bribery offences would extend to those that offer a “personal advantage,” not just a “business advantage.”

The anticorruption landscape continues to evolve. The PharmaCertify Compliance Foundations™ eLearning module, Global Anticorruption Laws, covers the concepts common to most anticorruption/anti-bribery laws, as well as the specifics related to laws such as the FCPA and the UK Bribery Act. In addition, our new Compliance QuickTake™, Recognizing and Reducing Third-Party Risks, covers the risks associated with working with third parties, in a targeted microlearning format.

The PharmaCertify™ team will be offering demos of our compliance training products at the Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress in Washington next week. Stop by Booth 10 in the Exhibit Hall to say hi, and while you’re there, enter our drawing to win a JBL SPLASHPROOF PORTABLE SPEAKER.

See you in Washington!

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!

Compliance News in Review, February 23, 2016

Did you feel the awakening? It was as if a million voices cried out in joy, then were suddenly, silently going about their business again. Geekerati rejoice! The Star Wars: Episode VII video announcing the beginning of production on the next installment has been released. December 15, 2017 can’t get here fast enough! We’ll have to wait to learn about what happens in that galaxy far, far away, but in the meantime, we can at least keep up with the recent news from the compliance universe, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Do you have questions about this year’s Open Payments submission? There’s no need to seek answers using the Force while CMS is around. The agency held a webinar to discuss this year’s submission and take questions from stakeholders. CMS presented an overview of enhancements to the system and the timeline for submissions before taking questions. Those questions focused on reporting requirements, the dispute process, and the deletion of records.

UK government officials are launching an “urgent investigation” (hopefully not urgent enough to break out the mind probe) into the possibility that National Health Service (NHS) officials received consulting payments from pharmaceutical companies. The investigation is based on a report by the Telegraph that more than 130 NHS officials, most in positions to assess what medications would be used by patients, were receiving the payments. The payments were allegedly provided to the NHS workers in return for serving on advisory boards. Activities related to the advisory boards ranged from participation in teleconferences to travel to meetings outside the UK, where the participants stayed at luxury hotels.

Negotiations in the Amarin case are moving slower than a space slug. The FDA and Amarin have requested a third extension in the process as they look to reach a settlement in the case involving the off-label promotion of Amarin’s omega-3 drug. The extension will delay the court proceedings until March 18.

Pfizer has reached an agreement in principle with the federal government in a False Claims Act case involving the calculation of Medicaid rebates for the drug Protonix. The product was marketed by Pfizer’s Wyeth unit. The company will pay $784.6 million to resolve the charges, and will not admit any liability in the case.

The Jedi Master of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will remain in his post a bit longer than planned. The UK’s Attorney General extended the contract of SFO head, David Green, for two years. Green’s contract was set to expire in April, and now will expire in April of 2018.

France could be joining the Alliance of countries beefing up their anti-corruption laws. Draft legislation of an anti-corruption law will be presented to the French State Council for validation, and will then move on to the legislative process. The French Parliament is expected to begin its review in April of this year. Highlights of the draft include the creation of anti-corruption agency with the power to impose sanctions; a requirement mandating corporations have a compliance function in place; and the implementation of a number of Sunshine requirements, most notably the disclosure of payments to lobbyists.

Anticorruption efforts by government agencies have certainly been a hot topic of late. From the announcement that the FBI would be hiring additional FCPA investigatory staff, to the SciClone settlement, and the news of a new law on the horizon in France, governments around the world are taking steps to root out bribery and corruption. That’s why now is as good a time as any to review your company’s current anticorruption program, including the training that addresses anticorruption laws. For multinational companies, training on the FCPA alone is not enough. The UK Bribery Act is just as far reaching, and your colleagues need to understand the differences in the two laws. In addition, both Mexico and Brazil have implemented tougher anticorruption laws in the last several years, and training should be provided on those as well.

Thanks for reading everyone, and may the Force be with your compliance training efforts.

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!

News in Review, August 11, 2015

Industry support of CME increases in 2014,  NuVasive settles False Claims charges while Mead Johnson deals with FCPA charges, and Amarin wins a preliminary injunction in its off-label case against the FDA.

The dog days of summer have certainly arrived in most of the U.S. with temperatures that are best described as hot, hot, hot! Thanks to Willis Carrier and his wonderful invention, we can at least find occasional respite from the sun’s rays and the humidity. So while you wait for a break in the heatwave, crank the A/C up a few notches, grab a cool beverage, and just chill with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

According to a report from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), industry support of CME increased 2.4% in 2014. According to the report, industry support represented about a quarter of all CME revenue in 2014, whereas in 2007, that support was closer to half (46%) of CME revenue. Physician attendance at CME dropped by just over one percent, but non-physician attendance rose six percent.

The heat is off for NuVasive now that it has settled with the DOJ. The company has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle charges it violated the False Claims Act by marketing a product for surgical uses for which it was not approved. According to the government, the company marketed its CoRoent System for several spinal surgical procedures for which it was not approved. The DOJ also claimed kickbacks, in the form of speaker fees honoraria, were paid to induce physicians to use the system. The company was also accused of paying kickbacks for physicians to attend events hosted by Society of Lateral Access Surgery (SOLAS), an organization that was entirely organized and funded by NuVasive.

Mead Johnson entered into a settlement with the SEC to resolve charges it bribed Chinese government healthcare workers to recommend its infant formula, in violation of the FCPA. According to the SEC, the company funded the payments through distributor allowance funds paid to a third-party distributor, and then directed the third-party on how those funds were to be used. Allegedly, the payments were not properly reflected in the company’s books and records.

Insys also finds itself in the doghouse; or in this case, we’ll say the duck house (okay, it’s a reach, but stay with us here). Insys Therapeutics has entered into a settlement with Oregon to resolve a deceptive marketing case. The State claims the company marketed an opioid painkiller for treating mild pain that was only approved for treating pain in cancer patients who are not responding to other types of painkillers. The State also claims the company paid physicians for writing prescriptions and used unqualified physicians to promote the product. The settlement will be split between the State and an organization dedicated to the prevention of opioid abuse, which will be selected by Oregon’s Attorney General.

So it appears, this off-label promotion dog can hunt. Amarin, the company suing the FDA over its ability to promote its fish-oil drug for off-label uses, has won a preliminary injunction against the agency. The injunction is not a final order, but for now, the FDA cannot prevent Amarin from the truthful off-label promotion of its product. The drug is approved for treating patients with very high levels of triglycerides. Amarin would like to promote the drug for use with patients that have moderately elevated triglycerides levels, despite being on a statin.

Like the Caronia decision before it, the Amarin case certainly raises interesting questions about the future of truthful off-label promotion. While a compliance training session may not be the place and time to delve into a discussion of that future, the decision does present an opportunity to discuss off-label promotion and how to address questions related to off-label use. Why not take this opportunity to launch refresher training, or distribute an updated, quick-reference communication piece? On-going reminders about what constitutes off-label promotion, and the policies your organization has in place to address unsolicited questions, are part of any effective compliance curriculum. The case also creates an opportunity to work with commercial team managers on a plan to increase the dialogue about the topic with their teams. Off-label is in the news and the training opportunities abound.

Compliance News in Review, June 16, 2015

Dinosaurs roamed the earth again (at least in the land of movie theaters), over the weekend, with the release of the summer’s first big blockbuster, Jurassic World. You’d think after three films, the characters would have learned not to fool with Mother Nature. Apparently not, and considering the $200+ million the film racked up at the box office, we are not tired of watching them make those same mistakes.

It may not involve death, destruction and extinct creatures, but we have our own epic tale to tell. Break out the popcorn and 3D glasses, and silence your phones please. It’s time for this week’s feature presentation – the Compliance News in Review.

Transparency International is undertaking a project of Giganotosaurus proportions. At the International Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress and Best Practices Forum, Executive Director Robert Barrington spoke to attendees about corruption in the healthcare sector and an initiative underway to evaluate corruption in the pharmaceutical industry specifically. The project will focus on five key areas: procurement and distribution, manufacturing, marketing practices, product registration, and research and development. Barrington noted that the industry should prepare for more scrutiny, with patients demanding to know why increased spending has not led to an improvement in the quality of healthcare.

Public Citizen has accused the FDA of improperly expanding the original approved use of a sleep disorder drug, and has filed a petition with the agency to have the label changed. According to the organization, the drug was initially approved for use in treating the disorder, Non-24, in blind patients, however the drug’s label does not specify the patient population. Public Citizen says this opens the door to the drug being used for other sleep disorders with patients that are not blind. Following the initial approval, the FDA did send the manufacturer a second approval letter which stated a mistake was made and the drug was approved for treatment of Non-24 in general. The second letter notes that the condition is experienced almost exclusively by those who are blind.

Could this be another “blockbuster” decision by the FDA? The FDA sent a letter to Amarin Pharmaceuticals and the court in response to Amarin’s lawsuit against the agency for violating its free speech rights. The company would like to share study information showing its drug reduces the risk of heart attack when taken in conjunction with a statin, which is not an approved use. In its response to the lawsuit, the FDA says it does not have concerns with most of the information the company wanted to share, and it does not consider the sharing of that information to be false or misleading. The letter also reminded the company that new guidelines for sharing off-label information are forthcoming.

In our opinion, the letter from the FDA to Amarin is certainly not an invitation for pharmaceutical and medical device companies to start sharing information about unapproved uses of their products. Situations like this, as well decisions like the Caronia case, may lead some to think the rules have changed, when in fact they have not. Training and communication efforts need to emphasize that the laws and regulations remain the same. Promotional statements still need to be truthful, accurate, not misleading and balanced.

The message should be clear – only company approved studies and statements may be shared, and done so in the way described by the company. The way in which companies play the game may be evolving, but the rules of the game remain the same. Playing within those rules benefits all stakeholders, including the company, and most importantly, the patient.

Have a great week everyone!

Week in Review, May 13, 2015

European Medicines Agency changes its conflicts of interest policy, ACCME updates its requirements related to the disclosure of commercial support, Siemens may be facing corruption charges in China, Bio-Rad tries to block access to FCPA settlement documents, the FDA schedules a summer session with stakeholders to discuss the topic of off-label, and another pharmaceutical company adopts the First Amendment argument in a fight to promote off-label.

Well, the world welcomed a new royal at the beginning of May, and last week, we even learned the name of the latest little princess, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. A lovely name for a lovely little girl, and a touching tribute to the proud papa’s mother. Of course, if you’re not an Anglophile, you undoubtedly couldn’t care less, so we’ll quickly move on to our own little bundle of joy…the latest version of the Compliance News in Review.

In other news from across the sea, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has made changes to its conflicts of interest policy. The agency will no longer allow individuals with connections to the pharmaceutical industry, or those who know they will be working for the industry, to sit on drug review panels. The previous policy left that decision up to the individual.

The ACCME has issued a royal proclamation updating its requirements for disclosure of commercial support. CME providers will now be allowed to use tabs, hyperlinks, or other electronic means to communicate commercial support to attendees. The ACCME says the move is an effort to “simplify compliance expectations and make them consistent across activity types.” The organization expects learners, as they always have, to receive disclosure information prior to the start of a CME session.

Siemens announced that its healthcare unit’s marketing and business practices are being investigated by Chinese regulators. The company denies media reports that the investigation deals with corruption, and says that it is working with regulators to resolve the matter. A Chinese government website stated that regulators were not investigating the company over bribery concerns. Siemens sells medical equipment and biochemical tests in China.

Bio-Rad raised the drawbridge on a records request from an investor. That investor has now filed a petition to have access to records related to Bio-Rad’s FCPA settlement. In 2014, the company entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ and accepted an Order issued by the SEC to resolve the matter. The investor made a request for records that related to the bribery allegations, but the company said there was no proper purpose for the records and the request did meet certain legal requirements.

The FDA will hold audience with the public during the summer to discuss off-label promotion. The agency says the meeting is being called to discuss the issue with a variety of stakeholders. The industry has been vocal about how the regulations infringe on First Amendment rights and have called on the FDA to relax its regulations. Critics worry that allowing companies to promote off-label will lead to less clinical trials and risks to patient safety.

One drug maker has decided to not wait for that summer meeting to take action. Amarin Pharma has filed suit against the FDA over its ability to share off-label information with physicians. Lawyers representing the company say the company is within its First Amendment Rights to share the information, as long as it is truthful and not misleading. The lawyers believe Amarin is the first company to pre-emptively sue the FDA over the issue. At the center of the suit is the company’s ability to share company-sponsored clinical trial information with doctors. The information indicated that the drug may be helpful for a wider patient population than what was approved. Lawyers for the company say the company knows physicians are already prescribing the drug off-label for a wider patient population, and more information, not less, should be shared with the physicians. A director with the health advocacy group, Public Citizen, says if the suit succeeds, it will undermine the FDA’s drug approval process. The FDA had no comment.

With that news of the on-going battle over off-label, we proclaim this issue of the Compliance News in Review as complete. Clearly, the focus on off-label isn’t going away anytime soon. That’s why we continually update our PharmaCertify eLearning module, On-label Promotion, with the content your representatives need to stay in compliance as they interact with HCPs.

Have a great week everyone!