Dear Connie, the Compliance Training Specialist, Tackles Return-To-Work Policy Training

Welcome to “Dear Connie, the Compliance Training Specialist,” where we answer questions about compliance training topics and present solutions for strengthening your compliance culture and reducing risk.

This week: Don’t forsake the fundamentals when building return-to-work policy training.

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Dear Connie,

As my company considers reopening our offices under the threat of COVID-19, I’ve been asked to create training based on our new back to work policy. The policy covers precautionary measures (wearing a mask, hygiene, social distancing, etc.) as well as the potential risk factors (international travel, living with someone who has tested positive, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc.).

What type of training do you recommend based on this unique content? Obviously, face-to-face training is not plausible right now, but is one eLearning module enough for a topic this important?

Signed,

Cautious in California

Dear Cautious,

Great question! As the life sciences industry, and the country in general, plans a careful return to work, now is the time to finalize a training and communication plan to help maximize the safety and well-being of employees. A topic this important deserves not to be rushed and framing the challenge within the context of the ADDIE model is important.

Analysis

You don’t want to miss any instructional challenges on a topic like this one. For example, what are the different roles of the learners? Do you have to consider different training tools for office staff versus lab employees? How about field employees? What pre-existing knowledge does each group bring to the training? Only after you’ve established the learner groups and identified the challenges of reaching each of those groups, can you start to design the proper training.

Design

Now you need to establish the learning objectives and think about how the content will be structured and what tools will be utilized. I would certainly consider a campaign approach, perhaps starting with an eLearning module, followed by other learning nuggets, to make it more memorable and engaging. You may want to also consider on-site posters to reinforce key messages, like the need for employees to follow the rules on washing hands and not touching their faces.

Development

In a case like this, development extends well beyond just creating a storyboard for an introductory eLearning module. The content needs to be organized in a manner that maximizes the engagement for each group, as determined in the design phase. The tools and media utilized to emphasize key messages are important. Animated video, for example, is a popular trend, but you need to be careful the animation doesn’t present such serious content in an inappropriate or humorous manner.

Implementation

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since this is critical to their safety and well-being, the learners are going to welcome the training with open arms and dive in enthusiastically. Implementing the training in a manner that optimizes retention is critical, perhaps more than ever. Consider the way in which lessons are “chunked” and delivered across each learner’s timeline.

Evaluation

Training intended to help employees learn the rules of returning to work during the COVID-19 crisis should be evaluated and adjusted accordingly. Gather feedback from the learners through surveys and personal outreach. You need to know it’s working, and you need to answer the learners’ questions. Consider sending out short updates as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issues new guidance. Don’t let the training get stale!

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the life sciences industry, but the fundamentals of memorable and effective training stay the same. Now is not the time to abandon those principles and practices to expedite the development and launch of new policy training. In fact, when faced with the challenges of ensuring the health and safety of employees, just the opposite is true.

My friends at NXLevel Solutions have over 15 years of experience developing policy training that improves retention of content and changes learner behavior. Contact Dan O’Connor at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com to ask how they can help ensure your “Return to Work” training helps maximize the safety of your company’s employees during these uncertain and crazy times.

Thanks for the question and stay safe!

Connie

Off-the-Shelf Compliance Training Myths

Myth #3: It won’t run properly on my learning management system.

In this third installment of our series on the myths associated with off-the-shelf compliance training, I discuss the concern that only training sold in conjunction with an LMS, or other type of online content delivery system, will run properly and accurately record data with that LMS. This theory is based on the idea that training modules from other vendors are not developed with the specifications of that system and therefore hold the potential for technical difficulties and “clunky” performance.

So, if you’ve already committed to an online compliance training content management system, the only way to ensure eLearning modules function correctly is to utilize the training that is packaged with the system, right? In a word…no.

The Myth 

Companies selling whole compliance training systems are understandably interested in fostering the notion that customers have no need to search elsewhere for training after they have made the commitment to purchase an enterprise-wide system to manage and deliver compliance training. The modules are a natural extension of the core product and offer myriad opportunities to garner additional revenue throughout the life of the system contract.

Adding fuel to the “it won’t run properly” fire is the idea that since there are so many varieties and brands of systems available to life sciences companies, including the large, well-known names; small systems targeted to compliance; industry upstarts; and systems intended more for GMP training where 21 CFR Part 11 compliance is a requirement, consistent performance across all platforms must inherently be a difficult, if not impossible, challenge. It’s a logical conclusion, even when SCORM compliance is factored into the compatibility equation as indicated by the fact that LMS compatibility continues to be one of the first questions our clients ask when we map out a strategy for deploying our Compliance Foundations™ off-the-shelf eLearning modules.

The Reality

If an LMS is built to modern specifications by a technical team that understands the need for it to house a range of training types, and the training is built with an eye toward flexibility and SCORM compliance, compatibility and performance of the individual components should never pose a problem. An effective compliance training curriculum requires a thoughtful and well-planned mix of training modalities delivered continuously across a learner’s timeline. That formula sometimes consists of elements from a variety of development vendors and the ultimate success of that curriculum must never be threatened by the limitations or lack of flexibility on which the training is housed.

So not only is the suggestion that off-the-shelf training won’t run properly on a wide range of systems a misleading and counterproductive myth, it is anathema to the very notion of what is at the foundation of successful compliance training.

The Bottom Line

In 15 years of delivering online life sciences compliance training, the technical team behind PharmaCertify has never faced an LMS communication and compatibility issue we could not overcome quickly and efficiently. The training we build for our pharmaceutical and medical clients is launched on systems large, small, and everything in between. Communication with the LMS team on the client side is key and early in the project, we learn the specifications of the system and provide a test module to that team to ensure seamless integration into the LMS.

Since we work with companies in various stages of training preparedness, including some that do not have an LMS in place, we also offer our Access LMS as a cost-efficient solution for deploying training to employees and third-party vendors alike. But, no matter the LMS, our first goal is to ensure your training reaches your learners according to your planned schedule and without technical concerns, and the critical completion and reporting data you need to verify learner compliance with your training curriculum is accurate, accessible, and reliable.

To see a demo of the PharmaCertify compliance training solutions, including the Access LMS, contact Dan O’Connor at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Thanks for reading!

Off-the-Shelf Compliance Training Myths

Myth #2: It’s Not Really Targeted to the Life Sciences Industry

In this installment of our series on the myths and realities associated with off-the-shelf compliance training, I cover the common concern that off-the-shelf compliance and ethics training is not effective because it is so rarely focused on the life sciences and the only way to get targeted training is to build from the ground up.

The Myth 

All too often, life sciences companies purchase off-the-compliance training designed with generic content that is somehow intended to be applicable to any industry. This especially holds true when training is sold under the banner of ethics training. After all, ethics is ethics, no matter the industry…at least that is the sales pitch from companies who sell generic compliance training.

Unfortunately, the aggressive marketing and sales efforts of those companies perpetuate the myth among many life science companies that custom-development is the only training option that will meet their needs. Unknowing compliance professionals think they have only two bad options: 1) purchase generic training, or 2) hire a generalist training developer to build expensive modules from scratch, with the added burden of having to provide subject matter expertise to the training developer (As if they don’t have enough to do already!). There is a better approach, one that can be both efficient and cost-effective.

The Reality

Those pedaling generic compliance training may insist otherwise, but effective life sciences compliance training absolutely requires content targeted to the pharmaceutical or medical device industries. The intricacies and details of the risks in our industry are far too unique to expect learners to find real value in generic training. But that doesn’t mean the only path to quality training is through custom development. Off-the-shelf training, with content developed by industry experts and vetted by your peers in the industry, is readily available for customization and launch.

Interactions with Healthcare Professionals Compliance Foundations eLearning Module

Our Compliance Foundations™ eLearning modules cover the topics those working in the life sciences industry need to effectively reduce the risk inherent to their job responsibilities. Off-the-shelf courses include Good Promotional Practices; Interactions with Healthcare Professionals; Healthcare Compliance Overview; On-label Promotion; and Managing Speaker Program Risk to name a few. The modules are designed for easy customization, so your language, policies, and practices are easily woven into the content. And our modules can be launched on any SCORM-compliance learning management system…either the one you have in place or our cost-effective LMS.

The Bottom Line

There is a better way. You don’t deserve to have to settle for generic compliance training. You can have off-the-shelf content that is specifically targeted to the risks in our industry and the ability to further customize the training specifically to your company. You also don’t need to always build from scratch to ensure the content is relevant and optimized for the risks your learners face every day as they interact with healthcare professionals and conduct their work-related activities.

But don’t just take my word for it when you can see for yourself. Follow the four steps below to access demos of the Compliance Foundations™, and see first-hand, the level of industry focus we bring to our modules.

  1. Visit http://www.pharmacertify.com/demo/interactions_hcps/start_course.htm
  2. Follow the navigation prompts to review the demo.
  3. Visit http://pharmacertify.com/foundations-compliance-training.html to see short descriptions of all of our Compliance Foundations modules.
  4. Contact Tessa Hoyer at thoyer@nxlevelsolutions.com for course outlines and to learn more.

Thanks for reading!

A Preview of the 2019 Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

The 16th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress is scheduled for April 16-18, 2019 in Washington DC.

The 16th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress begins April 16-18 in Washington DC and as is often the case, the agenda promises a compelling mix of presentations covering topics important to new and experienced compliance professionals alike.

Tuesday, April 16th is dedicated to the Congress “prelude” and one of the sessions looks particularly interesting based on its subject matter. Nurse educators are a trending topic in life sciences compliance with the potential for patients misinterpreting the line between medical advice and a commercial sales pitch. The description for the Compliant Nurse Educator prelude includes the timely suggestion that attendees will “gain foundational and operational needed to structure and maintain compliant programs.”

On Day One, Wednesday, April 17th at 11:15 AM, the Highly-Acclaimed U.S. Healthcare Fraud and Enforcement Panel begins with current prosecutors reviewing “Top Enforcement Trends and Focal Points for 2019 and Beyond.” During the Former Prosecutors Panel that follows, three former Assistant US Attorneys will focus on “New Developments on High-Profile and Settlements Uncovering Healthcare Fraud.” The perspective from the regulator side of the table is not readily accessible outside of this type of conference and attendees will be listening carefully for suggestions and tips from those responsible for regulation.

Following the networking lunch (important tip: the networking sessions offer great opportunities to learn from your peers), Day One continues with a series of “content streams” divided by general topic matter.

Patient assistance programs (PAPs) and Patient support programs (PSPs) are certainly under scrutiny (see our recent blog post on the programs here), so we have to recommend Content Stream A: PAPs and PSPs. A team of panelists, including Jennifer McGee from Otsuka, Chetan Shankar from GSK, Francisco Ribeiro Filho of Tesaro and Ann-Marie Tejcek of Eli Lilly will speak in two sessions: Navigate the Complex Legal Landscape of PAPs and Examine PSP Enforcement Trends as Scrutiny Heats Up. Content Stream C: Transparency and Aggregate Spend is also of interest considering the pending expansion of the Sunshine Act to include Advance Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants. It’s time to update that Sunshine Act and Open Payments training!

A series of interactive workshops follow the content streams and I’m looking forward to the Beyond Due Diligence – Auditing and Monitoring Third-Parties session, in particular. Third-party vendor compliance continues to be an area of focus in the industry and Lori Queisser of Teva should bring an important global perspective to the challenges of bringing vendors into compliance as they conduct business of the company’s behalf around the world.

Speaking of hot topics – Interactive Workshop 4: Risks Associated with the Hub and Field Reimbursement Teams so I expect the impressive list of panelists, including Sarah Whipple from Akebia, Joe Philipose from Alexion, and Richard Konzelmann from Sanofi to be speaking to a crowded room of attendees anxious to hear how they are managing the compliance risks that are inextricably linked to the use of Hubs for specialty products.

After a networking and refreshment break at 4:25 PM (don’t forget to stop by the PharmaCertify Booth to see demos of our newest compliance training products), the conference transitions to a series of “think tank sessions.” Frankly, I am not sure of the difference between a workshop and a think tank, but I suppose the changing up the name does make for a more organized agenda.

Anyway, on the think tank front, the Speaker Programs – Best Practice Benchmarking is right at the top of my list. Our recently completed Managing Speaker Program Risk Compliance Foundations™ module is already popular among our client base and for good reason. The programs are fraught with risk at every stage, including planning and execution, and this session, featuring Jennifer McGee from Otsuka again, as well as Maggie Feltz of Purdue Pharma, and Rebecca Spitler of Johnson & Johnson, should prove to be a valuable primmer on how to navigate those risks.

Add Social Media – Practical and Pragmatic Guidance to our target list among the think tanks because, well, it’s social media. We’ll also be in the PAP and PSP Benchmarking – How is the Industry Adapting? think tank to hear how Casey Horton and Stefanie Doebler from Navigant are working with their clients to help minimize program risk.

Day 1 closes with an end-of-day cocktail reception and I do recommend taking the time to attend this important networking event before you run out to dinner. It’s a great opportunity to interact with your peers and learn how they are dealing with some of the same challenges you face every day.

Following the Chairman’s Review of Day One, Day Two, Thursday, April 18th opens with an interesting session titled, From the Trenches: An Inside Look at the Forces and Pressures that Drive People to Violate the Law. The idea of approaching compliance from a higher “ethics” level has been a topic for discussion in recent years and companies are clearly seeking ways to integrate the concepts into their policies and procedures. I’ll be interested to hear how the speaker, who is the CEO of Business Ethics Advisors, LLC, how is working with clients to do just that.

After a session dedicated to recent trends in enforcement, featuring Eric Rubenstein from the OIG and Heather Johnson from the FTC, the agenda takes a turn to the future with Rethinking the Compliance Profession Where Should We Go from Here? Including such forward thinking presentations is appreciated and this look at the future of the industry should dovetail nicely from the opening session on ethics.

Next, attendees choose from what are described as “five in-depth summits.” The Small to Mid-Sized Company Resource Center holds interest for me based on the uniqueness of its title, and simply because I find the small to mid-sized company focused sessions so informative from a standpoint of learning what those with limited resources are doing to address the same challenges their peers at larger companies face.

With HCP interactions still representing so much of the compliance risk companies face, the Compliant Patient Interactions summit should be worthwhile, with an impressive array of industry professionals ideally sharing tips and suggestions for ensuring those interactions are conducted in a compliant manner. Hopefully, training is included on the list of talking points.

Following the final networking luncheon, the conference closes with the reveal of an inaugural benchmarking survey. The agenda does not list what organization conducted the survey, but I’m sure attendees will be listening closely to learn what their peers from “brand/generic, large/small and private/public” companies consider to be their top priorities on the established and emerging compliance risk areas.

Summary

The panel presentations, workshops, think tanks, and summits I touch on in this preview represent just a few of the sessions CBI has planned for this year’s conference. The Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress never fails to deliver the content and networking opportunities industry professionals need to stay abreast of current risk areas, policies, and best practices. I highly recommend the conference for the new and established life sciences compliance professional.

If you are considering the conference but have yet to register, we are still offering discounts on the regular conference registration rate. Contact me at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com if you’d like to take advantage of that discount. If you are attending, don’t forget to stop by the PharmaCertify booth to say hi and let me know what you think of our blog. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

Thanks for reading and I will see you in Washington!

Sean Murphy
Editor
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog

Lessons Learned at the 2018 Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Congress

Lesson 3: Learning to Listen

“There is only one rule for being a good talker – learn to listen.”
Christopher Morley

The importance of effective communication and more specifically, listening, wasn’t lost on the speakers at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress. The consequences of poor listening were summarized by one panelist on the Qui Tam Roundtable when she said, “the vast majority of whistleblowers who contact me have tried to report their concerns to the company, but the company didn’t want to hear it.” In an era when the nuances of an effective compliance program are discussed and debated in detail, the simple yet often lost art of effective listening needs to be a priority.

The value of listening extends across all departments and business units and it starts with field-based employees. A presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session echoed that sentiment, saying, “the stream of questions from the field is not going to stop, but those questions tell a story and you need to monitor them carefully and build your plan from there.” The data from those responsible for interacting with healthcare professionals is critical as you evolve your program and look for gaps and redundancies that need to be addressed in personal interactions and in your continuous training curriculum. And listening for that data begins with open, non-judgmental relationships across the company. Or, as another presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session stated it, “when employees interact with the compliance department, they should not feel like they are being judged.”

The need for open lines of communication doesn’t stop with the field. The industry trend toward “building a culture of ethics and compliance,” and frankly, the regulatory focus on the culpability of those in the C-Suite and boards of directors, more than ever, dictates the need for open and regular communication with company leadership. The proverbial “seat at the table” for Compliance extends upward in the organization. As was stated during the AUSA Roundtable, “Compliance should have a good relationship with the Chief Executive Officer, and the officers of the company. The two departments need to communicate openly and honestly.” He continued, “when issues do arise, the Department of Justice needs to see that you are being proactive and responding to those issues.” In other words, listening to one and another.

During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable, the risks associated with the use of third-party vendors was discussed in detail and the need for open lines of communication beyond the walls of the company was stressed. “Work with the stakeholders in the third party and make them feel like you are partnering with them,” one participant said, “be transparent, if you hear that people aren’t disclosing information, that’s a warning sign. If there is any confusion, ask questions.” And listen carefully to the answers.

The key takeaway: to build a truly effective and modern compliance program that proactively addresses the risks across the organization, a policy of open communication must be established from the top down. The concept of an ethics-based approach to compliance may seem nebulous and difficult to quantify, but it begins with fostering a level of respect across the company. And respect begins with real listening. When employee questions, feedback, concern, and complaints are welcomed, appreciated and nurtured in a respectful manner by Compliance and the C-Suite, all aspects of the compliance program, including the training, are enhanced.

Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback.

Sean D. Murphy
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

A Medical Device Issue of Dear Connie, the Compliance Training Specialist!

Welcome to “Dear Connie, the Compliance Training Specialist,” where we answer questions about a panoply of compliance training topics and present solutions for strengthening your compliance culture and reducing risk.

This week: Clearing the Confusion of Medical Device Codes

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Dear Connie,

I am a new compliance training manager for a growth-oriented medical device company near Boston, Massachusetts. I always look forward to your tips on training for the life sciences compliance industry in general, but in this case, my question is specific to the medical device space.

My company is growing rapidly overseas and I don’t have a good handle on the details of all the codes that govern our industry. I have created my own spreadsheet with what I think I need to know for each, but I sure would welcome a more official resource for comparison. As I start the process of analyzing my curriculum, how do I know I am targeting the right employees and third-party vendors with the right code training?

Can you help me sleep better, Connie?

Quizzical in Quincy

Dear Quizzical,

I feel your pain and your sleeplessness. The proliferation of medical device codes around the world can be confusing for those of us trying to manage risk. In addition to the AdvaMed Code, you need to be aware of the AdvaMed Code of Ethics on Interactions with Health Care Professionals in China, the MedTech Europe Code of Ethical Business Practice, and the APCMed Code of Ethical Conduct for Interactions with Health Care Professionals…whew that’s a mouthful and a training plateful.

Fortunately, AdvaMed has published a chart comparing the purpose and scope of each one, as well as topics like healthcare professional training requirements, provisions on payments of royalties, sales and promotional meetings, entertainment and recreation, support of third-party educational conferences, and more. I suggest you download the chart from the Resource Center page on the AdvaMed website and read it carefully – there is a plethora of helpful information there.

By the way, since you mentioned that you’ve started an analysis of your curriculum, I also recommend the article published by my friends at PharmaCertify for the industry publication, Life Science Compliance Update. It’s called Improving Outcomes: Analyzing a Compliance Training Curriculum to Reduce Risk and the reprint is available for download on their website.

Thanks for the great question. I always enjoy hearing from my friends in the medical device world.

Good luck and good training!

Connie

“Dear Connie the Compliance Training Specialist” Debuts on the PharmaCertify Blog!

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

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Dear Connie,

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?

Signed,

Concerned in Connecticut

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Dear Concerned,

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

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.

Thank you for a great question!

Connie the Compliance Training Specialist

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!