Key Takeaways from the 2018 Compliance Congress West

Early morning over San Francisco, the site of the 2018 Compliance Congress West.

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:

We couldn’t resist the chowder at the Hog Island Oyster Co. and we weren’t disappointed!

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!

Tessa Hoyer, PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

News and Notes from the 15th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

CBI’s annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress, which took place April 23rd to the 25th in Washington DC, featured industry leaders and government representatives espousing the usual best practices for building and maintaining an effective compliance program, but this year’s agenda offered a few surprises and changes in the regulatory wind. The notes below highlight some of the sessions we found to be particularly interesting and newsworthy.

Day 1

CCO Exchange – Adapting and Evolving Compliance Programs in Support of Innovation

Following the opening remarks and a session covering politics and the pharmaceutical industry, the conference kicked into gear as Maggie Feltz of Purdue Pharma, Jennifer McGee of Otsuka, Jill Fallows Macaluso of Novo Nordisk, and Sujata Dayal of Johnson & Johnson discussed their process for “partnering with business” in the company to maximize the strength of their compliance programs. The panelists stressed the importance of establishing a relationship with business that is built on open dialogue and trust.  Documentation is also key to that relationship and as one panelist pointed out, “the government cares about how you document that you are preventing issues.” It’s important to “shape the way you are perceived in the relationship by using business language,” she emphasized, and to measure your own effectiveness by simply determining whether business is inviting you back to the table. Your compliance program is only effective if you have a seat at that table.

Once the partnership is established, you need to “get the business to think and talk about risk and conduct a benefit-risk analysis,” according to one panelist. Another reminded the audience that Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs) hold important clues about topics of focus for the government. This is particularly enlightening considering the recent Aegerion and United Therapeutics CIAs that dealt with third-party patient assistance programs, a topic discussed throughout the conference.

The panelists also covered working with third-party vendors and the need for monitoring and testing of those vendors to ensure they are complying. As one panelist put it, “you need to be sure those companies are applying your standards.”

Stakeholder Spotlight – Strategies for Collaborating with Business Partners to Enhance Compliance Enterprise-Wide   

Gail Cawkwell, Medical Affairs at Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Cecilia Matthews, Human Resources at MedImmune, Gregory Moss, Deputy General Counselor at Kadmon, and Gary Cupit, CEO of PortA Pharmaceuticals provided the business perspective on the compliance/business partnership. The panelists reiterated key points from the CCO session, with one emphasizing the need for the two departments to tackle the issues together as business partners and another seeing compliance not as a goal, but “a base objective that underlies everything.”

One panelist emphasized the need to be aggressive in the approach, pointing out that she is the person “bothering the compliance department, digging into SOPs, asking why they do things that way, and asking how each policy helps the company.”  She prides herself on partnering with compliance to “find a better way to do it.”

Highly-Acclaimed U.S. Healthcare Fraud and Enforcement Panel – Past and Present Prosecutor Parley

A large group of current and past government enforcement representatives covered the current compliance risks facing the life sciences industry. The session started with a discussion about the nation’s opioid crisis and how each office is addressing the epidemic. One current assistant U.S. attorney summarized the threat to the industry succinctly, “If your company is involved in opioids at all, you are under intense scrutiny.”

In one of the more interesting moments of the conference, the panelists pointed out that the focus on off-label enforcement has shifted away from large pharmaceutical companies to smaller ones. According to one speaker, small companies and startups are under greater pressure to sell and to save money, especially if they are funded by venture capital companies. That leads to a higher risk of off-label promotion.

Continuing a theme, prescription assistance programs and patient charities were addressed in relation to kickback risk. As stated, “any coordination between the charity and the company that shows the company is just trying to pay for its product being prescribed is a concern.” At least two current regulators supported the idea of self-disclosure and being honest about potential violations. “Being candid about where the compliance program has fallen short and the steps the company is going to take to correct the problem is important,” one of them said.

The group of former regulators, who mostly now serve as industry counsel, touched on exclusion as a risk. While it may be considered a rarely-sought tool, prosecutors have the threat of exclusion available to them as leverage. They also delved into the importance of data and reminded the audience that prosecutors are indeed scouring Sunshine Act data.

Patient Assistance Programs and Reimbursement Hub Services Compliance – A New Wave of Enforcement Actions

Attendees were provided five options for the first breakout sessions. The PAP and Hub Services panel was moderated by Jane Yoon of Paul Hastings LLP, and featured Peter Agnoletto of Sanofi, Sarah Whipple of Akebia Therapeutics, and Evan Bartell of KPMG LLP.

The discussion began with a polling question asking attendees where the management of donations sits in their organization. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Grants Committee were the top answers. The question led to a discussion over best practices, with one speaker warning, “you at least need to take commercial out of any involvement with donations.” Another admitted that not having a say in how the money is spent is hard concept for the business to grasp but the separation is important.

In the next polling question, attendees were asked if they monitor relationships and interactions with the foundations. 57% replied yes, and 28% said no. The panel reminded the audience that recent CIAs included the stipulation that those relationships are monitored.

Another question was focused on sales representatives and their involvement with donations. 48% of the audience said their reps are provided with talking points. Panelists suggested that if the sales reps are involved, compliance needs to understand how the information is being used. Clear guidelines need to be established and the reps need to be trained on those guidelines.

Off-label Communications – Deep Dive into the New Regulatory Updates and Actions

Angela Rodin of KPMG LLP and Laura Terrell of DLA Piper LLP presented the update on the status of off-label promotion trends and enforcement in the industry. Starting in 2012, enforcement shifted, as companies argued that off-label marketing is protected under the First Amendment and therefore cannot be prosecuted under misbranding provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). One presenter pointed out that while the government is no long pursuing off-label promotion as a stand-alone FDCA case, it continues to enforce False Claims Act (FCA) and Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) cases related to off-label promotion.

The bottom line is that even with strong support of free speech as a defense of off-label promotion, life sciences companies still need to be cautious. Clear and effective training is still needed.

Social Media – New Challenges and Updates

Elizabeth Kim of Loeb & Loeb LLP began the social media presentation with the underlying premise that while the digital landscape has changed dramatically over recent years, the legal landscape remains the same. Even on social media, promotional statements cannot be false or misleading and communications must be consistent with labeling and fair-balanced.

Social media is challenging, the presenter stressed, because it promotes a dialogue, which means the company has a lack of control over the conversation. But there are some steps companies can take that at least help with the control. The ability for readers to comment on posts can be turned off on Facebook. No such control exists with Twitter. In addition, key words can be flagged on Facebook to help monitor comments. Unfortunately, as the presenter noted, most companies lack the resources and personnel to properly monitor social media outlets.

She also mentioned that while companies have no obligation to correct third-party, independent comments, public, unsolicited requests for off-label information must be met with a limited response to contact Medical Affairs only. “If you do reply,” she said, “responses should be narrowly tailored. Watch out for getting into arguments.”

The FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) has issued 233 warning letters over the last ten years for omitting information, minimizing risk information, and overstating efficacy claims on social media. As existing platforms evolve, and new ones appear, the need for updated training to ensure your field-based employees are abiding by laws like the FCA and FDCA, as well as OIG guidance and the PhRMA Code, is critical.

Medical Affairs and MSL Oversight

The Medical Affairs panel included Tina Beamon, Alicia Temoche, and Stephanie Macholtz from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and Christine O’Connor-Fiore from Boehringer Ingelheim. The session began with the panelists establishing the general rules for how Medical Affairs may interact with healthcare professionals. Attendees were reminded that Medical Affairs can “do things R&D and Commercial cannot do” and “they are not limited to the label.” MSLs provide training to consultants for speaker programs but in the words of one panelist, “they are not Commercial and their integrity must be protected.”

The panelists admitted that the model for Medical Affairs and Commercial interactions has changed in reaction to marketplace changes. Medical Affairs should share insights as long as those insights are not off-label. “The walls between Commercial and Medical Affairs are coming down,” she said, “and a framework needs to be in place to protect the integrity of the MSL.”

Behavioral Compliance – Using Psychology to Make Programs More Effective

In one of the more unique sessions I’ve witnessed in years of attending compliance congresses, this session focused on behavioral compliance as a tool for generating more compliant outcomes. Yogesh Bahl, of AlixPartners, Kevin Ryan of Novo Nordisk, and Charlene Davis of Sun Pharmaceuticals provided conceptual concepts around the philosophy and practical application of behavioral compliance, using ideas known as “ethical nudges.”

The session began with the audience being asked to provide feedback on which of two compliance posters they thought were more effective. Essentially, one reflected a “rules-based” approach, and the other a “values-based” one. The values-based poster was the more popular choice and the content of the session supported that approach. The underlying premise behind the ethical nudges is that “people become ethical by doing ethical things.” Ethical nudges were essentially defined as “interactions based on the understanding of internal decision-making to promote desirable choices.” They included “read and affirm” documents presented right before a critical HCP interaction, visual cues like signage and posters, and micro-training launched strategically in conjunction with the need for ethical decision making.

Critical CIA and Enforcement Learnings – Zero-In on Emerging Trends to Elevate Compliance Safeguards      

The key points of this session were no surprise considering the oft-repeated focus of recent CIAs. BJ D’Avella of Deloitte and Touche LLP and Seth Lundy of King & Spalding LLP reminded attendees that “the focus of CIAs had shifted to interactions with patients, and more than ever, companies need to have a Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan (RAMP) in place.” That RAMP needs to include activity-based risks in addition to the usual product-based risks.

One of the presenters pointed out that the OIG is focusing on a “smaller number of CIAs that send messages to the industry.” He reminded the audience that CIAs are not laws, but they are a strong indicator of where to focus risk mitigation efforts.

Day 2

CCO Scenario Symposium – What Would You Do?

After a review of the sessions and events of Day 1 by Michael Shaw of GlaxoSmithKline, Day 2 began with this session, during which panelists were asked to participate in a mock case study of “Bad Pharma Co” and expand on lessons learned from this fictional company. Beth Levine of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Ashley Watson of Merck, Jerald Korn of Tesaro, and Keith McGahan of Spectrum Pharmaceuticals were asked to discuss the optimal organizational structure companies like the mock one presented in the case study. One presenter felt that having compliance as part of the legal department was a benefit because it gave her greater access to the CEO and others in the board of directors. Others felt that if compliance has that type of access, “it doesn’t matter where they sit.”

Other scenarios brought up in the case study led presenters to offer tips on dealing with compliance situations and those who raise the concerns. For example, one speaker emphasized that “no matter the source, the company’s obligation is to search for the facts of the case.” Speculation about the whistleblower and his or her credibility should not come into play. Also, “if someone sends information about a violation anonymously, it needs to be kept that way.”

Meeting of the Enforcement Minds

Heather Johnson from the Federal Trade Commission, Sally Molloy from the Department of Justice, and Eric Rubenstein from the OIG presented their suggestions for companies to keep their compliance programs attuned to current regulatory challenges. On the topic of bribery for example, one presenter suggested that “internal controls need to be robust and designed so that they are not siloed. It’s all bribery.” Another emphasized that recent trends point to Medicare and Medicaid fraud as a primary source for qui tam cases.

Beyond the Seven Elements of and Effective Compliance Program – What Else Are You Doing?

As a compliance training company, this session, featuring Jerald Korn of Tesaro, Chad Morin of bluebird bio, and Gregory Moss of Kadmon Holdings, held particularly interest for us. As one presenter stated, “creating a brand for the compliance department is a fun way to convey important information.” That holds true for the training as well, and we work with companies to create a continuous, engaging, and “fun” curriculum.

Another speaker noted the importance of being creative in the policies to help ensure compliant behavior, as well as the need to establish a collaborative culture. As stated, “you’re not trying to check the boxes on all seven elements, you’re trying to build a robust program that is effective.”

Existing and Emerging State Laws Governing Transparency Reporting

The state laws presentation, with Maggie Feltz and Michael Grandison of Purdue Pharma, and Brian Bohnenkamp of King & Spalding, LLP, began with tips for managing aggregate spend:

  • Train company-wide, not just the sales force
  • Train, retrain, then train some more
  • Monitor throughout the year

The panel pointed out that state laws fall into three categories; drug pricing transparency, aggregate spend laws, and sales representative licensing and reporting laws. The landscape across all three changes quickly and they expect 2018 to be as busy as 2017.

In recent state-related news, Maryland’s law was found to be unconstitutional and according to one panelist, that “has quieted some of what other states have been considering.” Oregon was brought up as the most challenging law since it “requires documentation to support your documents.” In New Jersey, where the law was passed on the last day of the outgoing administration, one speaker mentioned that Governor Murphy’s team is considering major changes. On the drug pricing front, the panel expects two or three more laws to be implemented.

Obviously, the state law landscape is confusing and changes are happening at a dizzying rate. As one speaker emphasized, diligence, and continuous training is necessary to “ensure every decision-maker is aware of new requirements.”

Maximization of Compliance Resources

I close with what may have been the best session of the entire conference! (okay, I may be a bit biased since this panel included my colleague, and head of PharmaCertify, Dan O’Connor.) Dan was joined by Chad Morin of bluebird bio and Laurie Kathleen Durousseau of Rigel Pharmaceuticals. The session focused on how compliance professionals can best focus their time and energy toward those activities that are most critical during the various growth stages of a life science company from pre-clinical to established.

Starting with a quick poll of the audience, the panel first determined the average size and stage of companies represented. Most of the audience members were an “n of 1” compliance department in a company with 200 or fewer employees that is in the “Clinical” or “First Product” stage. The panel then shared their suggestions for which compliance-related activities to prioritize during each growth stage. In the “first product” stage for example, aggregate spend transparency reporting; government price reporting; specialized training by function; and patient support program design were discussed, among other topics.

The panelists also covered the need for small departments to partner with the business, as well as other departments, to spread the resource load and accomplish the objectives of each stage. For any compliance department challenged with limited resources and personnel, it was a worthwhile thirty minutes of learning. If you missed the conference, Dan would be happy to provide his perspective on the topic. Feel free to contact him at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Summary

The world of life sciences compliance is changing, and so is CBI’s Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress. This year’s conference presented a compelling balance of traditional content that newcomers to the field should find valuable as a base of knowledge, with enough updates on key areas of regulatory focus (off-label, patient assistance programs, state laws, etc.) to keep the seasoned compliance professionals in the audience satisfied with agenda. It also offers industry professionals a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with their peers and hear best practices for strengthening their compliance cultures and reducing risk. I highly recommend the conference next year for chief compliance officers, specialists, managers, and anyone working in the life sciences compliance training industry. Kudos to CBI and all the presenters!

Thanks for reading.

Sean Murphy
Editor, PharmaCertify Compliance Training Insights Blog

Open Payments Funding and Another Kickback Case in the News

An Open Payments letter from two senators, a list of diabetes drugs from Nevada, near silence from the Office of Prescription Drug and Promotion (OPDP), and an unsealed kickback case…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! There’s nothing like a day of food, family, friends, and parades (and of course, football!) to kick off the holiday season. Can’t you just smell the turkey and fixings permeating the hallways and your olfactory senses now? Before we go unpack our “Thanksgiving pants,” we’ll leave you with a different type of tasty morsel: a new edition of the Compliance News in Review. Bon appetit!

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Grassley don’t want to see CMS’s Center for Program Integrity (CPI) left at the kids’ table. They sent a letter to the acting Health and Human Services Secretary urging that funding for the CPI be made a priority. The CPI is responsible for managing the Open Payments database. The letter includes references to “recent reports that have raised concerns about the effect payments to health professionals may have on opioid prescribing practices, which in many ways has exacerbated this ongoing public health epidemic.”

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services published its list of three dozen diabetes drugs that are subject to the State’s new transparency law. Manufacturers with a drug on the list will have to report a variety of financial information, including costs associated with production the drug; rebates and coups offered; and profits earned from the drug. Regulations for reporting the information are still pending.

Will the OPDP pass on dessert at Thanksgiving Dinner? OPDP is on pace to issue a record low number of letters this year. So far, only two letters have been issued. In 2016, the agency issued five in the first six months, then in December, it issued six more. The letter count has steadily declined over the last sixteen years. Will 2017 will be a record low?

On the social media front, Twitter upped its character limit to 280, and according to social media manager, Andrew Grojean, pharmaceutical marketers should take advantage of the expanded word count. Grojean says the change does not solve all the issues related to use of the platform, but it provides more freedom and flexibility, as well as more space for the required fair balance.

Did Eli Lilly over stuff the turkey? A recently unsealed whistle blower case alleges that the company provided kickbacks to boost sales of its drugs. According to the suit, the company offered nursing services to HCPs through a third-party to induce doctors to prescribe three of its drugs. Allegedly, the nurses essentially acted as sales reps even though they were supposed to be providing independent medical advice and disease state education.

With that, we end this holiday edition of the Compliance News in Review. In the spirit of the season, we are thankful to all who take the time to read our tome on a regular basis, and as always, we invite you to contact our editor, Sean Murphy, with your feedback. He can be reached at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Have a fun and festive Thanksgiving holiday!

The Los Angeles City Attorney opens an investigation against one pharmaceutical company, while the founder of another is indicted on federal racketeering charges.

This year’s World Series brought record-setting excitement and late nights (more like wee hours of the morning for those of us in the East) for fans of America’s game. Congratulations to the Houston Astros, who outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a seven-game extravaganza, just as Sports Illustrated predicted…three years in advance!

If you’re searching for a new pastime to fill the void left by passing of another season, we have just the ticket. Step into the batter’s box as we present all the life sciences compliance news fit to blog, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Leading off this week, a Wisconsin state legislator introduced a bill that will require drug manufacturers to notify the state in advance if they plans to increase the price of a drug by more than 25%. The lawmaker cited the costs to Medicaid budgets and a lack of transparency with consumers as the justification for the bill.

There’s no “Dodging” the Los Angeles City Attorney for Avanir Pharmaceuticals. On the heels of a CNN report, the City Attorney announced that he intends to open an investigation into the company’s prescribing practices for elderly patients in nursing homes. The report pointed to a rise in prescriptions for the drug in question, even though the studies supporting use with elderly patients are lacking. Top prescribers allegedly received speaking and consulting payments from the company.

Canada is pulling facilitation payments from the mound. The Canadian government announced it will repeal the exception for facilitation payments from its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. The repeal was effective October 31. The law had previously permitted payment to expedite routine services, such as obtaining permits and scheduling inspections.

In news from overseas, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), the group responsible for overseeing adherence to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice (APBI), saw a rise of more than 40% in the number of complaints it received in 2016 about marketing and promotional practices. The complaints led to 100 new cases, with more than half of those resulting in the determination that the Code was breached.

Insys is on the losing end of a doubleheader, with the founder being indicted on federal charges and a New Jersey doctor potentially losing his license for allegedly accepting kickbacks from the company. The founder was indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The company has been accused of promoting its opioid product for off-label uses and paying kickbacks to healthcare professionals.

The attorney for the New Jersey doctor says his client has never been the subject of a disciplinary hearing, or had a patient complaint in 25 years of practice, and he welcomes the chance to present his case to the medical board.

Speaking of New Jersey, a public hearing was held to receive feedback on the state’s pending regulation, “Limitations on Obligations Associated with Acceptance of Compensation from Pharmaceutical Manufacturers by Prescribers.” The regulation, which was announced by Governor Christie in late summer, includes restrictions related to transfers of value to prescribers of prescription drugs.  Many of the groups in attendance have expressed concern that the regulation’s $10,000 per year cap on bona fide services payments would have unintended consequences on clinical research. The New Jersey Attorney General stated that while some revision is possible, the State is committed to moving forward with the regulation. Public comments will be accepted through December 1.

With that, we end this “boys of summer (and well into fall)” edition of the Compliance News in Review. One final note: if you’re attending the 18th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington DC, November 6-8, stop by Booth 112 (back by all the good food!) to see demos of our newest compliance training solutions and the Compliance 365 Continuous Learning System.

See you in Washington!

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!

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!

Discount Registration: Pharmaceutical and Medical Compliance Congress

The 17th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress is scheduled for October 19-21 and the PharmaCertify team is looking forward to catching up with colleagues and sharing demos of our newest compliance training solutions. As a conference sponsor, we have the opportunity to offer you a $600 discount on the full conference registration cost. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to hear industry professionals and government regulators discuss the latest guidance and share best practices, contact Dan O’Connor at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com.

If you can’t make it this time, don’t worry, we’ll be posting updates on the PharmaCertify Twitter feed, and a conference review on the our blog soon after the conference closes.

Thanks for reading and stay compliant!