Compliance News in Review: the 2016 Year-End Summary

Here we are again. Another 584 million-mile (940 million km for our metric friends) trip around the sun is nearly complete. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the beginning of 2016 and now we’re picking out our favorite brand of champagne to celebrate its end. Before we break out the noisemakers and party favors, let’s take one last nostalgic look back at some of the life sciences compliance-related developments of 2016.

A new milestone was reached regarding HCP spend disclosure. The first disclosure reports under the EFPIA Disclosure Code were released in 2016. Gaining disclosure authorization from individual HCPs proved to be a challenge for the industry and the numbers of doctors who granted authorization ranged widely between countries. According to Britain’s pharmaceutical trade association, ABPI, 70% of their HCPs granted authorization and in Ireland, just over half of HCPs did so. In other transparency developments, ten of Canada’s top drug firms announced plans to voluntarily disclose aggregate physician and healthcare organization payment data. The movement was started by GSK Canada, and other multinational firms including Abbvie, Purdue, BMS, and Lilly followed.

Drug pricing was a big story in 2016. Former CEOs from Turing and Valeant were called to testify before Congress about drug price hikes, and Mylan’s CEO was called to testify over dramatic increases in the cost of an EpiPen. Laws that would require drug companies to disclose information about their pricing decisions were proposed in several states, and a bill was introduced at the federal level with similar requirements. Even with those high profile stories making headlines, only one pricing disclosure law successfully passed this year – Vermont. That law requires a select group of manufacturers to provide information about the factors related to price increases.

A handful of former Insys employees had an eventful year. A former sales representative entered a guilty plea to charges of fraud, and a district sales manager and a several of top executives were all arrested on charges they paid kickbacks to doctors. The drug at the center of the charges is the opioid painkiller, fentanyl. Prosecutors and enforcement agencies claim the individuals offered a variety of kickbacks to doctors to increase prescriptions and encouraged them to prescribe it for unapproved uses.

2016 was an active year for settlements related to bribery cases. GSK, AstraZeneca, SciClone, and Novartis all entered into settlements with the SEC over activities conducted by subsidiaries in China. Orthofix and Teva both set aside cash in anticipation of resolving the FCPA-related charges. Olympus entered into a $22.8 million settlement with the DOJ to resolve charges that a subsidiary covering Latin America paid bribes to healthcare professionals working in government facilities in order to increase sales of product.

We saw a couple of legal “victories” for the industry in the debate over sharing truthful off-label information. In the Amarin case, the FDA decided not to appeal a judge’s decision that allowed the company to share truthful off-label information about its fish oil product. In addition, in proposed jury instructions for a medical device case, the DOJ indicated that it is “not a crime for a device company or its representatives to give doctors wholly truthful and non-misleading information about the unapproved use of a device.”

With a string of legal decisions favoring the industry, the FDA held a public forum in November concerning the ability of drug and device makers to share off-label information. The primary topic was whether the agency needs to revise its regulations considering recent legal decisions and the forum was attended by various stakeholders representing both sides of the argument.

With that, we complete our look back at 2016 and the stories that made headlines in the world of life science compliance. It was an eventful year, and everyone at the Compliance News in Review is excited to see what the new year holds. Thanks for joining us throughout the year and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and compliant 2017!

The Right Stuff: Compliance Training in Preparation for Your Company’s First Product Launch

A first product launch is an exciting and overwhelming time for any life sciences company. So much to do, and what seems like so little time to do it – especially if you are a compliance department of one or two people. As employees are brought on board in support of the launch, planning and implementing an initial compliance training curriculum is a critical task. You need to cover all the essential bases and topics, and direct the training to the appropriate audiences so individuals aren’t burdened and distracted by messages and information that may not be applicable to their job duties.

With that in mind, the team at PharmaCertify™ has compiled a list of suggested topics and audiences for any company working toward an initial product launch.

Topic 1: Code of Conduct
Audience: All Employees

Good code of conduct training introduces employees and external contractors to the behavioral expectations your company has established. It also provides a foundation for understanding the requirements of working in such a heavily-regulated environment. We could fill an entire blog entry with instructional tips for building effective code training, but for now, we’ll make this one suggestion – make it more meaningful with scenarios that demonstrate how the concepts are manifested in their daily activities. Learners need to relate to the information being presented in order for it to stick.

If your company has not yet developed a code of conduct, see topic two.

Topic 2: Overview of Healthcare Compliance
Audience: All Employees

All employees must be aware of the laws, regulations, and guidance documents related to working for a pharmaceutical or medical device company. If your company doesn’t have a code of conduct, or the code doesn’t include basic information about the laws affecting the industry, a compliance overview course is especially necessary to communicate the concepts they need to know. If you do have a code of conduct, consider the idea of narrowing the audience to the commercial, medical affairs, regulatory, and communications groups.

Topic 3: Interactions with Healthcare Professionals
Audience: Sales, Marketing, Medical Affairs, and Customer-Facing Regulatory

Employees whose job responsibilities involve interacting with healthcare professionals (HCPs) on some level need training to ensure those interactions are in compliance with laws, regulations, and company policy. The training should include topics such as the rules associated with providing gifts and meals; the use of HCP consultants; proper conduct during speaker programs and advisory boards, and interactions at medical congresses or other scientific meetings.

Topic 4: Good Product Promotion
Audience: Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing teams need detailed training regarding the regulations that govern prescription drug and device promotion. Focus your promotional training on how the regulations affect both verbal and written promotional statements. It should include topics such as what constitutes promotional statements versus medical information; what is a proper promotional statement (i.e., accurate, balanced, and truthful); FDA guidance on dissemination of reprints; and the use of social media.

Topic 5: PDMA and Drug Sample Management
Audience: Field Sales

If samples are going to be a component of the product program, training regarding the requirements of the Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA) is needed before the sales representatives receive any of the samples for distribution. The training should be twofold though and include information about inventory management, and your company’s sample documentation processes – a topic just as important for medical device companies as well.

Topic 6: HIPAA
Audience: Sales, Medical Affairs, and Any Group Interacting with Patients or Handling Patient Information

The protection of patients’ personal information is a hot button issue, so you need to ensure those who handle, or who may be exposed to that information, are aware of their responsibilities regarding confidentiality. In addition, credentialing requirements at hospitals and other facilities now require anyone doing business in those facilities to be trained on the requirements of HIPAA and the protection of personal health information. In fact, if your sales representatives are going to be selling in a hospital environment, you will want to add Bloodborne Pathogens and Aseptic Technique training to their curriculum as well, but we will save that for our blog entry on the rise of credentialing and its requirements.

More Information

While the above list of topics constitutes a strong compliance training foundation for any company moving toward its first product launch, the topics and audiences may need to be tweaked based on your particular product and product indication.

The PharmaCertify™ team of compliance subject matter experts and instructional designers are here to help and we are making information available to you. To see an expanded list of the suggested content for each of the topics listed above, contact Sean Murphy, Product and Marking Manager at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com, or 609-483-6876.

Thanks for reading and stay compliant!

Lauren Barnett, Compliance Content Specialist, PharmaCertify™ by NXLevel Solutions