Compliance Trends 2018: Our Point of View

The festivities have ended and a shiny new year is upon us, so we are switching hats – from party to prognostication – to delve into what we see as the hot compliance topics and trends for 2018. Based on our reading of the enforcement tea leaves, several 2017 topics should remain at the forefront, but our prediction on the level of activity emanating from the OPDP has changed from last year. So if you’ve resolved to stay up-to-date on all the compliance news fit to blog this year, what better way to start than with this look ahead.

We expect funding for patient assistance organizations, which are charities that provide financial assistance to patients to help cover the cost of medications, to be a trending topic in 2018. In 2016, federal agencies started to focus on the topic and issued subpoenas related to support provided to these charities. In 2017, two companies entered into settlements with the government over that funding. The government considers the practice to be a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute because the funding offsets the co-pay of patients who participate in government healthcare programs.

Donations to charities that assist with medication costs are permitted, but assistance cannot be directed to patients who are prescribed the donating company’s medications. We would not be surprised to see the government take more of an interest in the financial relationship between the industry and charitable patient organizations this year. Training must emphasize the need to maintain appropriate independence between the company and the patient organizations it chooses to support.

In 2017, a small group of states passed laws related to price reporting, sales representative registration, and physician payment caps. That trend should continue in 2018 and the laws will most likely be focused on pricing transparency, as opposed to spend transparency, which was more common a few years ago. Expect more states to follow New Jersey’s lead and implement broader restrictions and caps on payments to healthcare professionals. The law is intended to combat the growing opioid addiction crisis.

2017 was a surprising year for the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP). After a flurry of letters at the end of 2016, we expected the agency to continue that trend into 2017, but only four letters were issued the entire year. That is a record low. Don’t expect a dramatic increase this year.

The letters that were issued last year were focused on false and misleading statements related to risk and omission of risk. Two industry settlements in 2017 included charges of failure to disclose risk in violation of the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, so emphasizing the importance of fair balance and truthful, accurate promotional statements when training sales representatives is critical.

On the global front, we would not be surprised to see an uptick in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement following the implementation of new processes that reward companies for self-disclosing potential violations and cooperating with investigations.

With that, we end this “preview” edition of the Compliance News in Review. To be automatically notified when we post new editions of the News in Review, conference highlights, or compliance training tips, just click the “follow” button on the right side of this page.

Have a safe and compliant 2018!

The 2017 Compliance Year in Review!

As the year winds to a close, we take a break from the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations to reflect on the 2017 trends, topics, and focal points from the world of life sciences compliance. It’s been a busy year, with some expected updates, along with a few surprises, filling our News in Review missives from month to month. So, grab a cup of egg nog, fire up the Yule Log on YouTube, and enjoy this “year in review” edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Drug pricing transparency was a hot topic at the end of 2016, and the trend carried through 2017. The rules for Chicago’s new sales representative licensure law, which is intended to help combat opioid addiction, went into effect. The law requires representatives to obtain a license to sell products in the city and to document their interactions with healthcare professionals. In California, drug manufacturers must now notify the State and other payers in advance when they intend to raise the wholesale acquisition cost of a drug over a certain percentage, and when new drugs are expected to have a wholesale acquisition cost that exceeds the Medicare Part D specialty drug threshold. Nevada passed similar legislation, but its law focuses on diabetes drugs. Nevada also requires sales representatives to be licensed and provide reports of their interactions with HCPs. Finally, Louisiana also jumped on the pricing transparency train.

In an effort to combat the opioid crisis,  Governor Christie in New Jersey issued rules that cap payments made to healthcare professionals by pharmaceutical companies.  Maine passed a gift ban law similar to the existing Minnesota law and, not surprisingly, we heard from Vermont in 2017. The attorney general there is reportedly investigating whether drug and device companies are adhering to the state’s HCP gift ban law.

Not all state-level action was successful. Missouri’s proposed price transparency law did not pass during the past legislative session, and a bill in California to restrict gifts and payments to HCPs passed the state Senate, but was rejected in the Assembly.

Pharmaceutical support for patient assistance charities was another 2016 hot topic that continued through 2017.  An IRS investigation into one of the charities focused on whether it provided an improper benefit to pharmaceutical donors by using the donations to purchase the drugs manufactured by those same companies. Support of patient assistance charities also figured into one company’s healthcare fraud criminal and civil settlement with the government.

2017 was a quiet year for the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP). During December of 2016, the agency dropped a flurry of letters, but 2017 will likely see record low in activity with only three letters being issued so far for the entire year.

This was an interesting year in bribery and corruption enforcement. It began with a bang in January as the Serious Fraud Office entered into its first major Deferred Prosecution Agreement. With a changing of the guard in the U.S., FCPA actions were more subdued, but the diagnostic test company, Alere, settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission over improper payments to foreign officials allegedly made by its Colombian and Indian subsidiaries.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) published its Compliance Program Evaluation Guidance in 2017. The document offers details on what the agency considers to be an effective compliance program. Perhaps most notably, the DOJ made its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Pilot Program permanent. The pilot program ended in early 2017, but it was effectively made permanent with the announcement of a new FCPA Enforcement Policy. Like the pilot program, the new policy encourages companies to self-report possible FCPA violations and rewards companies for their  cooperation during investigations.

With that, we close out another issue of the Compliance News in Review, and another year in the wonderful world of life sciences compliance. We look forward to keeping you up-to-date on all compliance news fit to blog in 2017 and continuing to provide you with an ever-expanding suite of PharmaCertify compliance training products and services.

Thank you for reading. Have a warm and wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

18th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress: A Preview

PCF’s annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress kicks off next week. The conference offers attendees the rare opportunity to network with industry leaders and hear their thoughts and suggestions on the bevy of topics and regulations affecting those who work in the pharmaceutical or medical device compliance field. Narrowing the list of impressive panels and sessions down to a manageable schedule may seem overwhelming, but we’ve perused the agenda for what we are looking forward to the most:

Day 1, Monday November 6, 2017

Keynote: OIG Update
Hearing the list of topics that led to settlements and the OIG’s fiscal year 2017 workplan from Mary Riordan, Senior Counsel, Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services is always valuable for anyone responsible for rolling out compliance training. We are also looking forward to hearing how the agency expects to apply information from the Compliance Program Effectiveness Resource Guide released earlier this year as it conducts investigations.

U.S. Attorney’s Roundtable
While we expect to hear about topics such as off-label promotion, we look forward to hearing what the U.S. Attorneys say about the emerging trend of investigating manufacturer relationships with patient assistance charities. Several companies have been subpoenaed for information about these relationships. One company recently entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, as well as a Corporate Integrity Agreement, after being accused of paying kickbacks to a patient assistance charity.

Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable
For those working in compliance for emerging companies, this session offers an opportunity to learn what risks their brethren from larger companies are facing so they know where to focus their priorities for the upcoming year. With Arjun Rajaratnam, from Smith & Nephew, joining the roundtable, medical device company representatives should also find the information worthwhile and relevant.

Day 2, Tuesday November 7, 2017

HCP Engagement: The Road to Proactive Risk Management

The title is intriguing and we’re curious to know what steps industry professionals like Tom Glavin of Olympus and Michelle Murphy of Regeneron utilize to change their corporate cultures and convince leadership to shift to a more proactive model for addressing risk.

Managed Market Considerations for Hub and Specialty Pharmacy Arrangements

Training and messaging for those who work with specialty pharmacies is a topic not often addressed in these forums, so hearing what industry professionals like Terra Buckley of Celgene and Greg Sherman of Gilead Sciences say should be of value.

Compliance Considerations for Small and Mid-Sized Pharma and Medical Device Companies

Here is a direct opportunity for attendees from emerging companies to evaluate their programs against companies of a comparable size and learn best practices for managing risks with less resources.

Brief Overview of the Policy and Politics of Pharma Pricing

Transparency around drug pricing is a hot topic with state and federal legislators. Learning more about the current laws, as well as what to expect from politicians in an election year, should prove to be valuable when evaluating risk, writing policy, and developing training.

The Exhibit Hall (Especially Booth #112!)

We’re looking forward to catching up with clients and friends (old and new) at the 18th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress. During the networking breaks, we invite you to stop by the PharmaCertify Booth to see demos of our newest compliance training solutions. Our mission is to help you build a stronger compliance culture and reduce risk, and we welcome the opportunity to show you how we’ve done just that for our clients. While you are there, don’t forget to enter the drawing to win a JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker!

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!

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Top Ten Compliance Training Mistakes

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Compliance News in Review, July 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!