The French journalist and novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, is credited with coining the phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” For anyone who has attended multiple compliance conferences in the last five years, his words certainly ring true. Terms like “partnering with the business,” “tone from the top,” and “third-party risks” are still staples during conference presentations and this year’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress was no exception. For good reason.
As an example, the Compliance 3.0 presentation on Day 2 of the conference began with one panelist expressing his concern that “we still have to fight for a seat at the table.” In other words, while the concept has been bandied about for years now, the reality is that raising compliance to the organizational level of respect it requires to affect true behavior change is still a struggle. He and his co-presenters emphasized the need to not only find that seat alongside the businesses but truly understand their business policies as well as what they do and who they are. As another presenter put it, “bring value to the business as a compliance representative, educate them every step of the way, and help them educate their people.” She added, “when they get to the point where they are doing it themselves, that’s nirvana.”
Not surprisingly, the need to train and manage third-party vendors continues to be stressed. In the session covering the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one government representative even delved into the need to extend the corporation’s culture to the vendors. She added “you really need to know your third-party vendors and they need to understand you. You need to know who it is that is making payments on your behalf.” The presenters in the Third-Party Lifecycle Management session agreed, citing the need to “have vendors take the same training that is rolled out for your employees. Treat them as partners and make sure they understand the risks involved. They are more likely to care about being compliant if they feel like a partner and if they will be held responsible.”
As with the conversation and debate over an “ethics-based approach to compliance,” concepts like “tone from the top,” “partnering with the business,” and “third-party risks” warrant our focus and consideration simply because they are that relevant and critical. Industry conferences offer the valuable opportunity to hear our peers share their latest insights and success stories around the themes that seem to drive the conversation. While the world of life sciences compliance is evolving, in some cases, the more things change, the more they stay the same…at least at the compliance conferences.
Thanks for reading!
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog
Welcome to the first in a multi-part series based on lessons learned from the recent Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington D.C. Our goal in this series is to share best practices and tips for strengthening your compliance culture and reducing risk based on the themes and best practices heard during the three-day conference and provide suggestions on implementing those concepts from a training perspective. We begin this week with a twist on a topic that has been on the agenda for a few years now…rules vs. principles.
During the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Pharma and Device Companies panel presentation, a team of industry compliance officers and consultants discussed the challenges and opportunities brought on by limited resources and personnel. The suggestions were varied and intriguing, but one stood apart for me, especially from a training perspective. When he was offering the details of how he approached his transition to a small company compliance department, one chief compliance officer said, “it’s important to start with foundation training, and then have a conversation about culture.” In the milieu of conversation about the importance of principles, and the need for “an ethical approach to decision making,” it was refreshing to hear acknowledgement that rules-based and principles-focused approaches can co-exist and work in conjunction.
Foundational training lays the groundwork for the rules and policies that are critical for all life sciences employees to understand and incorporate into their daily activities. Although the “check the box” approach to training has been much maligned in recent years, being able to document that your staff, especially those who interact with healthcare professionals on a regular basis, have successfully completed training in topics such as HIPAA, on-label promotion, the False Claims Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute, is a critical first step. Once that foundation is established, on-going opportunities and touchpoints can be utilized to establish the “why” behind the decisions as you strive to strengthen the culture across the organization. As was emphasized during the presentation, you need to “have a plan that builds across all work streams” to do that throughout the year. As one example, workshops with interactive activities that immerse employees in ethical scenarios are an effective method for reinforcing the principles. In addition, assessments, microlearning, and games deployed across an employee’s timeline remind learners that compliance isn’t just about rules and regulations, it’s about “doing the right thing, for the right reason.”
During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable at the conference, one participant made the point that “a principle-based philosophy helps ensure compliance throughout the company and not just at the surface level.” That’s certainly true, but from our perspective, a principle philosophy is more effective when its built on a solid foundation of policy and rules-based training.
Thanks for reading!
Sean D. Murphy
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog
To say the audience at the 19th Life Sciences Compliance Congress West was energized and engaged is an understatement. The size and scope of the two-day conference led to unusually interactive discussions, with the audience eagerly sharing their experiences along with the presenters and panelists. For someone relatively new to the field of life sciences compliance training, I found the exchange of ideas and advice quite educational and enlightening.
PharmaCertify was there as a conference sponsor and we found an agenda filled with information designed to help attendees strengthen their compliance cultures and reduce risk, which of course is a mission close to our hearts from a compliance training standpoint. Here are my takeaways, with a focus on training of course (it’s what we do):
1. Build an ethical culture, not just a compliant one.
This was a recurring theme, and it’s a compelling one. On the surface, the line between ethics and compliance may appear inconsequential and not significant enough to be worthy of consideration. But more companies are evolving away from a rules-based approach to compliance to one that stresses ethical decision making as the foundation for their principle-based policies. It begins with a question: are people doing the right thing when no one is looking?
For us, the answer begins with a new approach to training. Modern life sciences companies need to teach the value of ethical decision making, and not just recite the rules and regulations. Training needs to instill in learners the understanding that the company trusts and expects them to do just that.
2. Hubs are in, so get that training out!
Patient support hubs are trending, and since they serve as the “connection point” for so many stakeholders (patients, providers, and physicians), they come with a high level of risk. With the influence of commercialized companies, and the lack of guidance from the Office of Inspector General and Department of Justice, patient support hubs are a hot bed of kickback and false claims risks.
Job aids, clear business rules and program guidance, and a robust training curriculum are necessary to mitigate that risk. All parties involved, including vendors, must be continuously trained on how to interact with patients and understand what they can or cannot say and do.
3. If you think PSPs and PAPs are in the regulatory spotlight, you’re right.
The scrutiny on Patient Support Programs (PSPs) and Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) is intensifying, with a growing number of settlements (Jazz Pharmaceuticals, United Therapeutics) raising questions over the idea of companies donating to independent charities. In addition to causing potential false claims and HIPAA violations, the donations raise concerns that they may be intended to induce patients to purchase certain products and implicate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
As was highlighted during the conference, PSPs and PAPs can be beneficial to patients, but commercial organizations cannot have any influence on the support being provided. Training needs to emphasize that sales representatives are not permitted to discuss specific PAPs or disease state funds with patients or healthcare professionals. And as prescription costs climb, the scrutiny and risks will continue to grow.
4. Nurse Educators: Are they here to stay?
The jury is still out. As defined during the presentation on nurse educators, “white coat marketing” refers to the use of healthcare professionals in marketing or sales activity, and therein lies the risk with the use of nurse educators. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the practice is scrutinized under the Anti-Kickback Statute because patients rely on the advice of physicians, they may “have difficulty distinguishing between medical advice and a commercial sales pitch.”
Recently unsealed qui tam cases highlight the risks and cause for concern, with one company deploying “nurse ambassadors” directly to patients’ homes and another implementing nurse-led adherence programs designed to increase product refills. Patients tend to trust the opinion and advice of their physician, and by extension, their nurse educator. However, it can be confusing for a patient to decipher advice from marketing, and exposure points emerge when nurse educators are trained similarly to sales representatives and conducting calls with those representatives. Asking yourself key questions about the training:
What materials do the nurse educators use (disease state, promotional, fair, balanced, etc.)?
Does the training focus on adherence and education instead of sales and marketing?
Does the training resemble sales training (e.g., overcoming objections, cold calling)?
5. Speaker Programs: How is this still happening?
The idea that speaker programs bring high levels of risk is not a secret, so much so that one audience member even asked, “how is this (insert expletive) still happening?” Good question. Selling in the life sciences industry is a relationship-based activity, and back in the “good old days,” there was little monitoring around meals, vacations, golf outings, etc. Now, the risks are rampant and include speaker selection (make sure they are credible), payments, receipts, the amount of money spent, spouses or guests in attendance, and analytics. The panelists also used Insys as a case study for the importance of communication, particularly email. Multiple documented emails within the company revealed how they were trying to utilize speakers. Training needs to emphasize the need for open, honest and communication, with no hidden agendas because as was quoted about the Insys case, “it takes a very long time to turn your ship around.”
6. Calibrate Your Compliance Training for Greater Impact
There’s plenty of guidance available from the DOJ and OIG to assist ethics and compliance professionals with determining their training priorities. The OIG guidance alone offers 49 distinct metrics for communication, education, and training. It can be a bit overwhelming, so what’s a compliance officer to do?
A presentation by Dan O’Connor of NXLevel and Jeremy Lutsky of Theravance offered attendees a practical framework for designing, developing, and implementing compliance training, beginning with the questions, “Is there a training need?” In other words, is there actually a knowledge and/or skill deficit or is there a problem with incentives, motivation, unclear expectations, etc.?
Assuming there is a training need, ethics and compliance officers can use the long-established ADDIE (Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation) process to efficiently attack the problem, beginning with analyzing risk by role in the organization. Several pragmatic approaches were shared by Dan and Jeremy, including use of the “3F” Curriculum Framework, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and a structured process for evaluating existing training.
7. The food choices in San Francisco are, well, pretty good.
The restaurant choices are clearly bountiful in the City by the Bay and we leave you today with a brief note on two that we enjoyed during our stay:
The Hog Island Oyster Company is nestled in the Ferry Building Marketplace, where you can watch the ferries come and go as you enjoy freshly-shucked oysters on the half shell. Choose oysters from various locations or order a dozen or two to try them all! They all come with a fresh vinaigrette or cocktail sauce if you so desire. While their main stake is oysters, the rest of the menu is not neglected. The chowder comes stacked with clams in a nice cream base with veggies, potatoes, bacon and cheese! And the fish sliders are perfectly crispy paired with a tangy coleslaw that compliments the fish nicely. From the bar, the Chardonnay from Napa was crisp and light, and the Wolfback Ridge IPA was a perfect pairing for the fish sliders.
The Douglas Room is a quaint restaurant located adjacent to the Tilden Hotel that offers a boutique gastropub vibe to transport diners to another time (think speakeasy era). The talented mixologists curate creative spins on classic martinis behind the bar to help authenticate the experience. For dinner or late-night snacks, the innovative menu features locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. We enjoyed the shishito peppers, duck confit wings, wedge salad, and Tilden burger. The portions were perfect for sharing, and the presentation was stunning. We’ll be back when the conference returns to San Francisco!
The conference kicks off Wednesday, November 7th at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC, and NXLevel’s PharmaCertify team will be there to catch up with friends and clients and showcase our newest compliance training products. If you’re attending, stop by Booth 108 in the Exhibit Hall (you can’t miss us, we’re right next to the food table and by the bar) to say hello and register for a chance to win an Echo Smart Speaker with Alexa!
You will also see us listening attentively throughout the panel sessions and presentations for the latest compliance best practices and suggestions from what is always an impressive list of industry professionals and government representatives. In addition to the keynotes and plenary sessions, PCF has packed the agenda with 27 different mini summits attendees can choose to attend. With that in my mind, we’ve once again scoured the agenda and highlighted a few of the presentations we’re looking forward to in particular.
Day 1: Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Preconference 1: Patient Support Programs: Risk and Risk Management Best Practices
Right out of the gate, PCF is offering attendees the choice of four compelling preconference sessions from 8:00 AM to 12:00 Noon. This Patient Support Programs session is offered as a “deep dive workshop” with timely talking points that include the most common manifestations or structures of Patient Support Programs (PAPs) and the best practices and approvals of the activities. A quick scan of recent corporate integrity agreements highlights the enforcement focus on PAPs, and kudos to PCF for wasting no time addressing it, with a panel that includes Nereyda Garcia from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and Nicole Serena from Bayer.
Keynote: OIG Update
Mary Riordan, Senior Counsel, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General for Office of Inspector General, returns for this highly-anticipated review of recent settlement actions and the OIG’s workplan for the upcoming year. From year to year, the presentation is considered one of the cornerstones of the conference as Ms. Riordan discusses the areas currently on the enforcement radar for her office.
Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable
The conference agenda doesn’t provide any details in terms of what topics the CCOs will cover but based on the level of panelist expertise and the fact that it’s scheduled for one hour and fifteen minutes, the roundtable is sure to provide a bevy of useable, first-hand lessons and advice. Panelists include Jill Fallows-Macaluso from Novo Nordisk, Indrani Lall Franchini from Alexion, Jonathan Kellerman of Allergan, Puja Leekha of Lundbeck, and Lori Queisser of Teva.
The networking reception is a rare, can’t miss opportunity to meet with your peers face-to-face and exchange tips and ideas for strengthening and growing your compliance program. And don’t forget to visit the vendors while you’re in there. They bring a range of innovation and expertise to the industry… and you don’t want to miss those cool giveaways!
Day 2: Thursday, November 8, 2018
During the first half of Day 2, we hear from the government regulators, investigators, and prosecutors with three different sessions: the Assistant US Attorney Roundtable, FCPA Enforcement Update, and the Qui Tam Roundtable.
FCPA Enforcement Update
In light of the recent FCPA case settlement by Stryker, this session should provide interesting insight into the enforcement trend surrounding the Act. Will more cases surface? Is there a renewed focus on the life sciences industry? With panelists from the FBO, the DOJ, and formerly with the SEC, the conversation should prove to be enlightening and educational.
Mini Summit 1: Fostering a Culture of Ethics and Compliance Beyond Just the Laws and Regulations
The first of seven 11:00 AM mini summits, this session captured my attention for its interesting title. The debate over a rules-based approach to compliance versus a values-based approach is not new to the life sciences industry. I will be curious to hear, particularly from a training perspective, how this panel fosters a culture that emphasizes empowerment to always “make the right decision” while still communicating the need to follow the rules and the laws.
Mini Summit IV: Annual Medical Device Compliance Roundtable
This dedicated medical device session features Jonathan Glazier from Philips North America, Marc Levine of Insightec, Laura O’Donnell from GE Healthcare, and David Ryan of Epizyme discussing the topics unique to the industry. The medical device industry faces some of the same compliance issues as their pharmaceutical brethren, but the nature of the products and business process (e.g., reimbursement) present unique challenges. I am anxious to hear how these presenters address risk and strengthen their compliance cultures while facing those challenges.
Mini Summit VII: Compliance 3.0: Managing Promotional Programs, Relationships with Patient Advocacy Groups and New Entrants into the Marketplace.
That title to this session is a mouthful, but it invokes a promise of a forward-thinking approach to the content. Expect this impressive panel, which includes Terra Buckley of Celgene, Michael Clark of Indivior, and Sujata Dayal of Johnson & Johnson to offer bold suggestions beyond the current thinking for the pressing topics listed in the title.
Mini Summit X: Is Your Board of Directors Bored of Your Compliance Dashboards?
Okay, I admit it, the sessions with the creative names tend to catch and pique my interest. Thinking beyond the clever title though, this afternoon mini summit tackles the tricky subject of the board’s involvement and support of the company’s compliance program. It’s a topic that’s been of focus for regulators
Mini Summit XII: The Fine Line of Promotion with Medical Professionals: Avoiding White Coat Marketing
Since employees who interact with healthcare professionals face a high level of compliance risk, I will be interested to hear how the panelists, including Pamela Lonzer from Alexion, Margaret Sparks from Sanofi, and Ravi Taylor of Ferring, balance the business need for representatives and others to engage with those HCPs, while instituting safeguards to ensure compliance with company policies and regulations.
Mini Summit XXVII: The Compliance Training Revolution
PharmaCertify had the opportunity to sponsor the 3rd Annual Life Science Compliance Training Conference back in June (you can read our key takeaways here), and I came away from that conference pleased that the industry is clearly developing more innovative training with the intent to optimize the learning and create lasting results. It’s been our focus since we started developing compliance training 12 years ago, and I look forward to hearing more about the techniques the panelists utilize to accomplish that same goal.
Again, these are just a few of the many sessions PCF is offering at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress. We look forward to seeing you there and as always, I welcome your feedback on this preview and our blog in general. If you’re attending the conference, don’t forget to stop by the PharmaCertify booth (#108 in the Exhibit Hall) to say hello.
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you in Washington!
CBI’s Compliance Congress for Specialty Products kicks off next Thursday, September 13th in Boston, and Dan O’Connor, Senior Vice President for PharmaCertify, will be there to catch up with our clients and colleagues and hear industry leaders and government regulators share strategies for proactively addressing current risks for specialty pharmaceutical manufacturers.
We’ve reviewed the conference agenda and here are the sessions and presentations we are looking forward to in particular:
Day One, Thursday, September 13
Prosecutors’ Perspectives Panel
Following the opening keynote address, the conference begins with this prosecutor panel focused on biotech and specialty pharma companies. Charles Grabow, Assistant US Attorney from New Jersey, and Gregg Shapiro, Chief of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit for the DOJ in Boston, will be joined by Jane Yoon from Paul Hastings, LLP, to discuss the high-risk areas for this unique industry group. Government panels typically offer some of the most compelling and important information during conferences and since this conference is focused on such a defined segment of the industry, the conversation should be revealing and educational.
Coping Strategies for the Lonely Compliance Officer
In addition to having the most creative name of any of the presentations, this session features three professionals facing the challenges that come with being a compliance professional for an emerging pharmaceutical company. We will be curious to hear how Heather Godling from Sobi, Francisco Ribeiro of Tesaro, and Sarah Whipple at Akebia Therapeutics, creatively utilize the limited personnel and resources available to them to build and maintain a strong culture of compliance.
Expert Panel: Evaluate the Risks Associated with Disease State Awareness and Other Pre-Launch Activities
The “Pre-Launch Activities” part of this title caught my eye. No matter their growth stage, all companies need to be aware of the compliance risks and concerns they face now and as they progress toward launch. That extends to compliance policies regarding interactions with healthcare practitioners. Ideally, compliance training for a new sales team should be built and planned before the product is commercialized.
Ensure Transparency in Contributions to Independent Patient Assistance Foundations
Reboot Your Approach to Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) and Reimbursement HUB Support
Patient support programs are an emerging enforcement trend in the pharmaceutical industry as more and more companies enter into settlements at least partly related to the programs (e.g., Aegerion, United Therapeutics, Jazz Pharmaceuticals). Add the high cost of specialty pharmaceutical products to the mix, and it’s no surprise that CBI has scheduled back-to-back sessions on this important topic.
Day Two, Friday, September 14
Daybreak Discussion: Specialty Café – Forecasting Priorities from Now to 2020
In a novel presentation structure spread across two consecutive time slots (8:15 – 8:40 and 8:45 – 9:10), attendees will have the opportunity to sit in small groups, share ideas and listen to their peers discuss three timely topics: Risk-based Approaches for Advanced Therapies; PBM Contracting Considerations; and Compliant Medical Affairs and Commercial Interactions. The format offers a welcome twist from the typical large group presentation and should lead to a compelling exchange of peer-to-peer ideas. It’s a great idea.
Explore the Trends in Drug Pricing Legislation and Other State Initiatives
John Oroho, from Porzio Life Sciences, LLC, is a respected and established thought leader in the life sciences compliance industry and his presentation is a can’t miss opportunity to hear the latest news and regulatory updates on these two ever-evolving topics.
Scale Up Your Compliance Program for Global Operations
Going global can be fraught with risk and compliance traps. In terms of anti-bribery alone, pharmaceutical companies need to now consider Loi Bertrand, the EFPIA Code, the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, and a cadre of emerging codes and regulations around the world. These on-going changes in the global landscape make the presentation by Masha Chestukhin of Sanofi, and Darryl Williams of MediSpend, an important pre-lunch session.
GDPR is Here – Now What Do We Do?
Are you confused about the General Protection Privacy Regulation (aka, GDPR) and its impact on you as a pharmaceutical compliance professional? You’re not alone. The questions concerning details like data inventory and documentation abound, and what exactly does it mean when data subjects have the “right to be forgotten?” What about training? Who needs to be trained? How does it impact the field employees interacting with HCPs? We look forward to hearing answers, ideas and opinions from David Ryan, Vice President, Associate General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer at Epizyme and Trish Shorey, Privacy Officer, Global Compliance and Risk Management at Shire.
If you’re attending the conference, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you think of the sessions and presenters, and conference content. And of course, if you see Dan, he’d be happy to share demos of our newest compliance training solutions and discuss how we help clients build a stronger culture of compliance and reduce risk.
Last week, we sponsored Q1 Production’s 3rd Annual Life Science Compliance Training Conference, where a highly-energized group of compliance training leaders from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries shared their ideas and techniques for making compliance training more engaging, creative and effective.
Here are my key takeaways from two great days of presentations and spirited conversation:
1. Less is more.
The idea of shorter, higher-impact training was reiterated throughout the conference and was a common theme across the presentations. One presenter said her company now limits all compliance training to 15 minutes and another said her company “hasn’t rolled out training longer than 15 minutes in two years.”
2. Remember the tone from the middle.
While “tone from the top” has been a point of emphasis in the industry for a long time, “tone from the middle” was cited as a key in multiple sessions in Chicago. “The immediate manager has to understand the message,” one presenter said, “that is who the people in the field are going to hear the message from.”
3. Communication is training too.
As one presenter put it, “anytime we can connect with an employee with something they can takeaway, it’s training.” Companies are using a variety of methods to make that connection, ranging from quick reminders via email, to video clips, resource websites, and graphic comic novels. Think outside the box and look for continuous touch points.
4. Tell a good story.
Research shows that well written stories improve learning and increase retention of critical compliance content and policies. The quality of the writing is the key. Once you find a good writer, have him or her create a story arc and develop a narrative. To save on budget in the production, use illustration instead of video. It’s less complex. The quality of the writing is as important, if not more important, than the nature of the medium.
5. Measure the metrics.
Data is important and even the “soft” metrics like feedback from the learners and the managers, testing results, changes in audit data, and increases in hotline reports, are important when identifying what curriculum adjustments are necessary. Data is important, so much so that one presenter noted that she recently hired a “data analytics person” to see what else they can learn.
6. The principles-based approach to compliance is here to stay.
The principles-based approach to compliance was introduced years ago and it has clearly become a trend in the life science industry. Multiple presenters discussed the need to empower personnel with the ability to make decisions, rather than just training on the rules. As one presenter put it, “let them make their decisions about what is the right thing to do, and let them know where to get the answers if they are uncomfortable making the decisions.”
7. GXP compliance training requires a different approach.
This one was a surprise and was raised in response to questions from the audience. Several presenters noted that they are also responsible for GXP compliance training and the nature of the content and the expectations of the learners require a much more traditional approach to training. Essentially, a rules-based approach is much more necessary when dealing with manufacturing compliance.
8. Create a brand.
To quote one presenter, “companies spend millions of dollars branding products, so why not brand compliance training?” Branding gives you more opportunities to creatively communicate the key concepts and messaging. Brand the policies and the principles to create a coordinated and clear message.
9. One size does not fit all.
When developing compliance training, keep the learner’s application of the content in mind. In other words, make it relevant to the learners. Use scenarios that reflect risks they are likely to encounter. As one presenter stated, “training needs to be risk-based, and you need to train on the topics that are core to your business.”
10. Relationships count.
Getting stakeholder buy in on the training at every stage (development/delivery/completion) is critical. Don’t just focus on the proverbial seat at the table with upper management, develop relationships across the company, and seek feedback from the business groups, sales managers, and sales training.
11. And finally, beware of the speaker programs!
When evaluating risks, make those speaker programs a priority.
Kudos to Q1 productions, the presenters, and everyone involved in the 3rd Annual Life Science Compliance Training Conference. From the opening audience ice-breaker, to the closing session, it was one of the most informative, focused, and engaging conferences I have attended in ten years of working in life science compliance.
I look forward to next year’s conference and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in sharing ideas and hearing what others in the industry are doing to make their curricula more engaging and more effective.
Thanks for reading!
Product and Marketing Manager
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions
Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Dear Connie the Compliance Training Specialist,” where we answers questions about timely compliance topics and delve into the best training methods to reduce the risks.
This week: managing the potential perils of speaker programs.
I am a compliance manager for a small pharmaceutical company in the Northeast. I am concerned that our new sales representatives may assume that they don’t need to worry about the details on speaker programs since an outside vendor manages them for us. We touch on speaker programs in the initial training all representatives take, but I am not sure we emphasized their responsibilities enough. Am I crazy to be concerned?
Concerned in Connecticut
First, you are not crazy and I understand your concern. Speaker programs are a hotbed for potential compliance risks. It has been my experience that if you roll out additional training, like microlearning, assessments, and contests continuously to the reps, you’ll significantly reduce the risk around speaker programs.
Here are just a few topics to keep top-of-mind for the reps, and cover in the continuous training, even when an outside vendor is managing the program for you.
Attending to Attendees Concerns
On-going training needs to emphasize the finer details involving attendance. Representatives need to know that transparency laws require attendance to be documented, and it also helps the company evaluate the program. Whether a meal is offered or not, all attendees must sign-in. Reps need to remember no-shows and those who refuse a meal must be documented.
Speaker programs typically have a minimum required number of attendees. If the RSVPs fall short of that number, the program should be cancelled. Verbal commitments do not count.
Off-label questions asked during the presentation are another area of concern. If your company allows speakers to answer off-label questions (not all companies do), the speaker needs to make attendees aware that the question is in reference to an off-label use, and answer only the question that is asked. If that doesn’t happen, the sales representative must interrupt the speaker. Otherwise, the company can be accused of promoting the product for the off-label use. This is a great topic for role-playing during live training.
In addition, physician speakers represent the company. The programs are promotional in nature, so representatives must follow FDA regulations and speakers must follow the approved program. They may not proactively share their experience involving unapproved uses of products.
Speaker Requirements and Issues
I remember one case when a speaker unavoidably arrived late due to traffic and he suggested that he skip several slides to catch up on the time. Make sure the representative knows to stand firm on this. All slides must be delivered.
Another time, the representative realized, after the presentation started, that the speaker added his own slides to the deck. Representatives need to be trained to not panic and cause a disruption, but make note of the incident and notify a manager and the compliance department about the incident. Representatives should remind speakers that in the future, only the approved slides may be used.
Speakers sometimes ask if they can bring additional material about the topic being discussed, to hand out to the attendees. Representatives need to be trained to always let the speaker know that all materials must be approved by their company in advance of the program – whether the request occurs prior to the program or when the speaker arrives. Unapproved handouts are not permitted.