A Plan for Maximizing Your Time at PCF’s 2020 Compliance Congress

For this year’s Virtual 21st Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress, the Pharmaceutical Compliance Forum (PCF) has planned an impressive agenda, chock full of keynote presentations, mini summits, plenary sessions, fireside chats, and updates from an impressive array of industry leaders and government representatives with the OIG, FDA, DOJ, and US Attorney offices. So, what’s a busy compliance professional like you to do when looking at that agenda and deciding which sessions are most worthwhile? The solution: approach the conference as if you were building a training plan.

As someone who has spent many years with a company that designs and develops compliance training solutions that reduce risk and strengthen ethical cultures, I understand that most critical step in any successful training project is having a plan. Getting the most out of this virtual compliance congress is no different. That begins with determining just what you hope to learn over the three days.

Decide on Your Learning Objectives

As you peruse the agenda, determine which topics and presentation titles align with the information you hope to gain from the conference. The conference covers a plethora of topics, from GDPR, to the FCPA, recent CIAs, state pricing transparency, and the Sunshine Act, just to scratch the surface. In addition, some sessions, like Mini Summit VIII on Day 1: Compliance Considerations for Rare and Ultra and Ultra Rare Drugs, will be on your list simply based on your product profile or company description. At the same time, if you work for a medical device company, you’ll obviously want to make Mini Summit XI: Annual Medical Device Roundtable on Day 2 a priority.

Implement Your Plan

A “virtual” conference does hold some advantages. For example, with the morning mini summits available on demand throughout the conference, you won’t be locked into one summit during each concurrent time slot. Kudos to the conference organizers for structuring the mornings this way! So if training and speaker programs are both high on your needs list, you can watch Mini Summit I: State of the Art Compliance Training (In Dynamic Times) at 10:00 AM on Monday, then come back later during the conference for the Mini Summit III: Key Considerations and Best Practices in Operationalizing Speaker Programs.

While the afternoon sessions are scheduled one after another each day, the demands of your job and life outside the conference may make attending each one unrealistic. The broader topics presented in the afternoon will therefore require planning as to which ones move to the top of your needs list. Of course, if you are attending with colleagues, I suggest dividing the sessions between yourself and those colleagues and sharing notes later to maximize the learning.

Based on my experience, there are certain sessions I suggest you prioritize no matter your objectives. For example, the OIG Update on Day 1 always offers a valuable review of the agency’s legal actions from the previous year and a peak into its priority list for the year to come.  In addition, expect the Annual AUSA Roundtable on Day 3 to be filled with insights into the topics regulators are moving to the forefront of enforcement as the industry continues to navigate the challenges of doing business during a pandemic.   

As with in-person conferences, PCF has integrated time to visit the Exhibit Hall into the agenda every day. I know I am biased here, but those visits absolutely need to be in your plan. The list of sponsors includes renowned law firms, consultants, software companies, and training developers like us who often offer the critical advice, service, or product you need to help develop and maintain a successful compliance program.

In fact, if you’re attending the Virtual 21st Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress, I invite you to stop by the PharmaCertify booth to learn more about our training solutions and see a demo of the newest addition to our Compliance Foundations™ library of off-the-shelf modules, Patient Programs and Their Risks.

Evaluate the Results

The benefits of building a plan to maximize conference learning and networking opportunities are not unique to virtual events. When the industry (and the world) blessedly puts this pandemic in its rearview mirror, and we have the opportunity to travel to conferences again, the challenges of conquering the amount of content made available at large conferences, such as this one, will remain.

Just as effective compliance training plans need to constantly be evaluated and updated, you need to analyze the way in which you approached this impressive agenda. Did the sessions you attended meet your needs? Do you feel they were worth your time commitment? What would you do differently? Are more attendees needed from your organization? And perhaps most importantly, do you now have a notebook full of actionable best practices, suggestions, and tips applicable to your compliance program, your company, and its products?

Thanks for reading, I look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Sean Murphy
PharmaCertify By NXLevel Solutions

Compliance Training Lessons from the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

Part 2: A Continued Focus on Speaker Programs and Patient Support Programs

This is the second in a series delving into compliance training lessons learned at the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress. Before the sudden changes brought on by COVID-19, speaker programs and patient support programs were two of the hottest topics in the industry and the pandemic has only heightened the concern. Through live presentations and on-demand sessions available throughout the conference, regulatory officials and industry representatives offered suggestions for managing the programs.

Speaker Programs

During the Enforcement Deep Dive and the DOJ and SEC Insights sessions, panelists reviewed the recent settlements and CIAs related to speaker programs. The cases mostly focused on what one presenter referred to as the “hallmark red flags” he and his colleagues look for in an investigation: repeat speakers and attendees, speakers who were high-prescribing HCPs, alcohol being served, and less than adequate attendance. Alleged violations in the settlements were based on everything from the inappropriate fees paid to speakers and improper promotional activities at the programs, to some companies paying speakers for programs that never occurred.

While regulators provided the groundwork related to traditional topics like speaker criteria and compensation, and attendee management, industry professionals shared tips for effectively managing the programs during a pandemic. In the session titled, Operational Considerations for Speaker Programs During a Pandemic, presenters offered a list of considerations such as updating training on tracking and reporting attendance; adding up to an hour of prep time so all participants have the opportunity to get comfortable with using the technology; and reviewing existing HCP contracts and adjusting provisions for travel since travel to the programs is not currently required.

Not surprisingly, the practicality of providing meals during the pandemic was raised throughout the conference. During the DOJ Enforcement Trends Related to Speaker Programs on-demand session, the challenges with documenting and tracking consumption were raised as a unique risk associated with virtual programs. For example, “ensuring attendees stay for the educational component of a program,” and “providing meals in a way that accounts for COVID-19 related health and safety issues” are suddenly necessary considerations.

Virtual speaker programs raise challenges the industry has not had to consider before the pandemic. Presenters offered an important reminder as to why diligence to how these programs are executed is more critical than ever, by reminding the audience that “government agencies have made it clear they will scrutinize conduct…companies should still comply with codes of conduct and government regulations. There is no COVID-19 defense.”

Patient Support Programs

On the patient support program front, the emphasis in investigations is on what one presenter called “good evidence of bad motivation.” As with speaker programs, the fundamental rules continue to apply. For example, the programs cannot be used to influence a provider’s or patient’s medical decisions and patient privacy must always be protected. Grants and donations to foundations cannot be driven by sales and marketing, or as one presenter put it, “the commercial side should never determine how much goes to foundations.”

With patient foundations being a focus in recent CIAs, presenters during the Enforcement Snapshot and Best Practices Related to PAPs, Coupons and Foundations session covered the important requirements established in those settlements, including the need for a governance committee that is solely responsible for activities related to copay foundations; the importance of establishing an annual budget for donations to foundations; the requirement that donations must be selected using a risk-based approach and random sampling; and the need to be aware of state limitations on copay assistance, such as Massachusetts and California not permitting assistance when a generic is available.

Presenters also pointed out that settlements involving patient support programs have changed for one significant reason: the foundations have also been targeted and have entered into agreements with the government. As one presenter put it, “that means the foundations have skin in the game. Gone are the days when manufacturers called all the shots around contributions to foundations, program design, and compliance controls.”

The requirements detailed in recent settlements point to the need for updated policies and practices, and subsequently, updated training around patient support programs. Not only does core training need to be modified, a new approach is needed to ensure pull through on the significant changes.

A New Approach to Training

Clearly, the fundamental rules related to speaker programs and patient support programs have not changed and still need to be addressed in training, as they were before the onset of the pandemic. speaker programs and patient support programs continue to be high-risk activities. When they are not managed properly, companies face the potential for off-label promotion, false claims, and Anti-Kickback Statute violations, to name just a few. But the nuances of how these programs are executed are now in flux and require serious consideration in terms of content updates and delivery modalities.

Foundational training remains an important starting point. Dedicated training on speaker programs should still include core topics such as program logistics, audience requirements, speaker compensation and training, and answering off-label questions. And patient support program courses must continue to focus on areas such as protecting patient privacy, working with vendors, and working with patient assistance foundations.

Clearly, COVID-19 requires changes to how both types of programs are planned and executed. To ensure targeted employees stay in compliance a supplemental approach towards reinforcement may be appropriate. For example, mini modules covering the provision of meals should be considered to stress the details of updated policies. In addition, microlearning components in the form of mini-assessments, videos, and podcasts are a valuable way to increase the retention of new and updated policies as well as the foundational topics. And custom scenario-based training is an ideal format for highlighting aspects of policies that are particularly relevant to conducting these programs during the pandemic.

Increasing the retention of compliance training is more challenging than ever given the changes in which your field staff and other employees conduct business. The information shared during the Pharmaceutical Compliance Conference serves as a reminder that speaker programs and patient support programs continue to be high areas for risk and a focus of investigations. The onset of COVID-19 has complicated that risk by forcing the industry to rethink how the programs are managed and how employees are trained on the details. Creating a continuous training curriculum, with new microlearning components integrated across learners’ timelines, is critically important to ensuring those details are not lost while understanding that the potential for violations are increased.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
PharmaCertify By NXLevel Solutions

Up Next: Enhancing Training Engagement in a Changing Industry and World

Compliance Training Lessons from the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

Part I: A Conference Overview and What It All Means for Your Training

State of the Art Compliance Training, with Dan O’Connor of PharmaCertify, was just one of the 14 on-demand sessions at PCC2020.

Welcome to the first in this multi-part series based on CBI’s recent Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress! For obvious reasons, the conference went virtual this year, yet it offered an impressive lineup of industry professionals, vendors, and government officials offering compelling tips and guidelines for building and maintaining an effective compliance program in the life sciences industry. In addition to the live presentations, organizers offered 14 “on-demand” presentations covering an impressive array of topics, so from a content perspective, the virtual format created even more opportunities for learning.

Over the next month, I will touch on some of the thoughts shared by presenters related to topics like speaker programs, patient programs, risk assessments, third-parties, patient advocacy groups, transparency, and strategies for field team compliance, to name a few. And since the mission of this blog, and the PharmaCertify team, is to help you reduce risk and strengthen your compliance culture through training, I will include suggestions for growing and modifying your compliance training practices and curriculum in response to the information shared during the conference.

Kudos to the team at CBI/Informa for their diligent efforts to replicate the learning and networking experience of the live conference. PCC 2020 was a busy conference, with an impressive volume of content scheduled throughout the week and in the on-demand sessions. If you attended and did not have the opportunity to review the on-demand sessions, I have been told these will remain available until September 14th. You will especially want to review the State-of-the-Art Compliance Training session, where my colleague Dan O’Connor and compliance professionals from Sage Therapeutics, Regeneron, and Akebia Therapeutics share creative approaches for increasing training engagement and adoption. You don’t want to miss that one!

While some of the topics were familiar to anyone who has attended the conference in recent years, the “elephant in the room” was not ignored, as a multitude of presenters addressed the overwhelming challenges of keeping an entire organization focused on conducting business in a compliant manner during these unprecedented times. The result was an interesting blend of traditional and familiar compliance conference topics and guidance on navigating the risk associated with conducting business in a highly regulated industry during a pandemic, or at least as much guidance as can be expected at this time.

From a high-level training standpoint, the presentations at the conference affirm the need for a more dynamic and blended curriculum, with microlearning and other components delivered across your learners’ timelines. The method by which life sciences employees conduct their daily activities has suddenly changed, and the level of risk and potential for violations has grown exponentially with that shift.

One of the more compelling presentations was the “Criticality of Compliance” session with John Crowley of Amicus Therapeutics. John shared his family’s moving story and his incredible journey as he pushed for the development of a product to help his two children (did you know his story was the basis for the feature film, Extraordinary Measures?). As he spoke, John reflected on what the commitment means to the patients battling the rare diseases his company’s products treat, “as life sciences professionals, we are an extension of the oath that doctors and nurses have taken, and it is a solemn oath,” he said, “if there is a compliance violation, everything we hoped for in the next several years is threatened.” It is a laudable approach to building a culture of compliance at Amicus and one worthy of emulation.

I look forward to sharing more ideas from the conference, as well as subsequent training suggestions you can utilize to strive toward similar ideals and goals in your organization.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
PharmaCertify By NXLevel Solutions

Coming Up: Speaker Programs and Patient Support Programs

A Preview of the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

As you may have expected, CBI’s Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress is going virtual in 2020. Whether presented live or online, the conference remains one of the few opportunities for those in life science compliance to interact with their peers and learn tips, suggestions, and best practices from industry leaders and government representatives. Live panels and on-demand presentations spread across the agenda represent a wide variety of the topics important to anyone striving to build and maintain a strong and effective compliance program and ethical culture. Here are a few of the presentations I am particularly looking forward to.

On-Demand Presentations

To provide an extensive range of content, organizers have made some sessions available on demand. Or, as they say it on the website, “on-demand content is available anytime, to accommodate your needs and schedule.”

On-demand titles range from Strategies for Field Team Compliance, to Best Practices Around the World for Global Compliance Management, and Hub and Specialty Pharmacy Contract Oversight and Risk Assessment, to name just a few. Make sure you watch the State-of-the-Art Compliance Training panel discussion being hosted by my colleague from PharmaCertify, Dan O’Connor. Dan will be joined by Alex Ganz of Akebia Therapeutics, Jeffrey Hagy of Regeneron, and Erica Powers of Sage Therapeutics for a deep dive into practical and innovative training approaches that you can apply immediately. I’ve seen the notes on this one, trust me, you don’t want to miss it. The full list of on-demand sessions is on the conference website homepage: https://informaconnect.com/pcc/.

Day 1: Monday August 10

After opening remarks and the video review of the year in compliance, James Stansel, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of PhRMA, will present the organization’s annual address, Healthcare Policy Update – Current State of Regulatory Reform Driving Innovation and Access. Then Gary Cantrell, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations at OIG, will deliver the annual OIG/HHS Update.

The panel presentation from the U.S. Attorneys’ offices typically offers a revealing look into the trends and topics currently in focus for the government. This year, Enforcement Docket Deep Dive – Analysis of Recent CIAs and Settlement Trends features representatives from offices around the country, including New Jersey, Southern New York, Nevada, and Massachusetts. Expect patient assistance programs to be at or near the top of the list this year – and, on this note, PharmaCertify will soon offer a new eLearning module covering patient programs. Send me a note if you’d like to preview the content outline.

From 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm, participants choose between two live Q&A sessions, Boot Camp Q&A, with Perri Pomper from Clinical Genomics, Ed Sleeper from Esperion, and Daniel Kracov and Mahnu Davar, both of Arnold & Porter; and Primer Q&A with Rahul Khara of Acceleron Pharma, and Seth Lundy from King & Spalding.

The Opening Night Networking Happy Hour follows the Q&A sessions, and when I preview the live conferences, this is where I typically suggest attendees not miss this great opportunity to interact with peers in one-to-one conversations. There is no reason to believe the virtual networking won’t be as valuable, as attendees and presenters clearly look forward to these rare chances to exchange experiences “face-to-face.” My colleagues and I will be there!

Day 2: Tuesday August 11

The opening session on Day 2 is compelling for its title, When Drug Research is Personal: Fireside Chat with Amicus Therapeutics’ CEO and CRO on the Criticality of Compliance in Advancing Lifesaving Therapies. For those of us who work in compliance training, making that training more meaningful to the individual learner is one of our persistent goals. If our clients can communicate the importance of the training to the careers of the learners, and the lives of the patients, learning is enhanced. I am looking forward to hearing John Crowley and Patrik Florencio describe how the “criticality of compliance in advancing lifesaving therapies” is put into practice at Amicus Therapeutics.

Scanning the agenda for the rest of Day 2, anytime the words “digital revolution” appear in a session title, I am intrigued. So, I will be curious to hear Chad Morin of bluebird bio. and Brian Berry of Vertex Pharmaceuticals describe that revolution in the Patient Centricity and Compliance in the Digital Revolution session.

From 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm, attendees choose from one of four hot topic roundtables. The roundtables are diverse and compelling, depending on your objectives. As always, I recommend dividing with colleagues, or even sharing notes with a new friend you meet in the networking session, to conquer and gather as much information as possible.

Two of the roundtables jump off the screen for me. The word “checklist” in any title always catches my eye. Calling All Emerging Biotechs – Pre-commercial Compliance Considerations and Checklist with Tiago Garrido of Verastem Oncology, Rupa Cornell of Takeda, and Trish Dring of MacroGenics looks to be an interesting primer for anyone in the unique position of preparing a product launch. And, since our training is so often targeted to field teams and the risks they encounter in interactions with HCPs, the Strategies for Field Team Compliance, with Erica Powers of Sage Therapeutics, Patrick Mooty of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma America, and Julianne Brierley of Novartis will be on my list.

Day 3, Wednesday August 12

Wednesday’s agenda begins with the CCO Showcase: Cutting-Edge and Proactive Models Driving Compliance and Transcending Silos Across the Business. Kudos to conference organizers for scheduling such an impressive lineup of chief compliance officers: Daryl Kreml from Sage Therapeutics, Beth Levine from Regeneron, Jill Macaluso from Novo Nordisk, Bryant Aaron from Novartis, Tina Beamon from Karyopharm Therapeutics, and Joshua Marks from Boehringer Ingelheim. Dedicating time for follow up Q&A after the presentation is a great idea since the interaction with the audience usually offers some of the most interesting exchanges of ideas.

Following the DOJ and SEC Insights session from 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm (e.g., the U.S Attorneys session is always worthwhile) attendees are encouraged to participate in “peer-to-peer networking time.” Each attendee will have his or her own virtual meeting room for what is described as a “streamlined networking opportunity.” It’s another attempt by organizers to provide for personal interaction, and regardless of the outcome, they should be applauded for the effort. Think speed dating without the detail about long walks on the beach and pina coladas.

Day 3 closes with additional roundtable discussions intended to foster small group discussions. Rather than dedicate Wednesday’s roundtables to specific topics, I have been informed the focus will be on “thoughts from the day and conference so far.” I like it!

Day 4, Thursday August 13

Thursday’s agenda kicks off with what should be a worthwhile discussion about navigating the sea of life sciences compliance challenges in the crazy year that is 2020 with a session titled, A Look at How In-House Legal and Compliance Departments are Evolving in 2020 to Help Address Business Challenges. John Oroho from Porzio will moderate the panel joined by Tara D’Orsi of Kyowa Kirin, Michael Clarke of ConvaTec, and Michael Hercz of Sentynl Therapeutics.

Following a late morning session focused on emerging risk areas from industry advisors (hey, how come I wasn’t invited?!) and a lunch break, the day continues with a Small Group Interaction Hosted by Track Presenters, then into the series of live hot topic roundtables from 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm.

Two roundtables stand out for me based on the hot topics in compliance training: Speaker Programs – Current Enforcement Trends, Best Practice Benchmarks and Future Fate with Peter Agnoletto from Sanofi, John Knighton from TherapeuticsMD, Jennifer DeVincenzo of Sobi, and Charlene Davis of Aerie Pharmaceuticals; and Zero-In on Compliant Patient Interactions, with Terra Buckley of Mesoblast, Rahul Khara of Acceleron Pharma, Laurie Durousseau of Rigel Pharmaceuticla, and Christie Camelio from TG Therapeutics.

Day 4, Thursday August 13

The conference closes with two sessions sure to draw a large audience of attendees. First up is, Anti-Kickback Accusations and the Aftermath — An Inside Look at Sales and Marketing Practices Under Fire with Jonathan Roper, a former district sales manager for Insys Therapeutics. The Insys case obviously holds a deep cauldron of lessons learned in every aspect of compliance, and its impact continues to reverberate across the industry.

Finally, conference organizers could not have picked a better session to close with than Empowerment, Diversity and Inclusion. Sujata Dayal of Medline Industries, Jim Massey, formerly of AstraZeneca, Maggie Feltz of Purdue Pharma, and Veleka Peeples-Dyer from Baker & McKenzie LLP will delve into what is certainly a timely and important topic in today’s world.

See You at the Conference

The logistics involved in the transition to a virtual conference must be daunting. CBI, Informa Connect, and all the speakers, are to be congratulated on their efforts and dedication to bringing so much critical content to the agenda. It looks to be a fantastic five days of learning and I hope this information provides you with more context on some key topics that caught my interest.

If you’re attending the conference, I hope to see you in the virtual PharmaCertify booth, where you can learn more about our training products and services and share thoughts about the conference. If you have not yet registered, we still have $500 sponsor discount registration certificates available. Contact us at info@pharmacertify.com to take advantage of this opportunity to join us.

Thanks for reading. I will see you online at the conference!

Sean Murphy
Product & Marketing Manager
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

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.

—————————————————————————————————

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

In a Virtual Detailing World, the Rules Regarding Good Product Promotion Still Apply

Life sciences detailing has changed, even if only temporarily, but the rules and best practices related to good product promotion have not. As field sales teams acclimate themselves to the reality of meeting with healthcare professionals through virtual means, they need to ensure those rules aren’t lost in the milieu of that change.

For example, no matter the means by which promotional speech is delivered, the FDA defines it as “any affirmative statement about a prescription drug or medical device.” Regardless of format, promotional statements made while meeting with healthcare professionals must always be truthful and accurate.

Representatives must never exaggerate or mislead the healthcare professional regarding the use, safety profile, or any other aspects of the product and any statements made about a product must include the benefits and the risks associated with the use of the product. They must never overstate the effectiveness of the product, make efficacy claims not supported by substantial research or misrepresent clinical study data. Fair balance cannot be ignored just because a rep is not meeting with the healthcare professional in person.

Products may only be promoted for uses approved by the FDA. In fact, if a healthcare professional asks a representative about an unapproved or off-label use, the rep needs to refer the question to the medical affairs department and, even during a virtual visit, a rep must never steer a conversation with the intent of prompting the healthcare professional to ask an off-label question.

Now is not the time to let the emphasis on good and compliant product promotion slip through the cracks. Updated training and microlearning covering topics like promotional speech, the Bad Ad Program, the use of social media, off-label marketing, and the dissemination of reprints and scientific publications is more important than ever to keep field sales teams compliant and effective.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
PharmaCertify By NXLevel Solutions

Note: the training content shared in this post is from our Good Product Promotion eLearning module, one of the 26 customizable modules available in our Compliance Foundations suite.

 

The 2019 DOJ Guidance Document: A Baseline for Life Sciences Compliance Training

Sean Murphy
Product and Marketing Manager

One of the significant events of 2019 affecting life sciences compliance was the April release of a new guidance document, Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, (https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/page/file/937501/download) by the criminal division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The primary intent of the document is to guide prosecutors and courts as they evaluate corporate compliance programs, but it also serves as an important baseline for life sciences businesses evaluating all areas of their compliance programs, including the training curricula.

The guidance document highlights three questions for prosecutors to consider when evaluating a program:

  1. Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
  2. Is the program being applied in good faith?
  3. Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

In this post, I examine the DOJ’s document in more detail, and discuss its implications for your compliance training curriculum.

Risk-Based Training

In reference to a “well-designed compliance program,” the DOJ stresses the need for prosecutors to focus on whether a company’s program is customized for the particular risk profile of that company. According to the guidance, prosecutors should “understand the company’s business from a commercial perspective, how the company has identified, assessed, and defined its risk profile, and the degree to which the program devotes appropriate scrutiny and resources to the spectrum of risk.” The company’s periodic training and certification should include all “directors, officers, relevant employees, and, where appropriate, agents and business partners.” In addition, training should be tailored to “audience size, sophistication, or subject matter expertise.”

In pursuit of these standards, foundational training is an effective method for providing a baseline, but additional risk-focused content continuously delivered to individual business units is one way to address that risk. As an example, scenario-based mini modules covering the topics highlighted in risk assessments and audits of the compliance hotline should follow the more comprehensive foundational training for each business unit to make it more relevant and engaging. In addition, microlearning nuggets in the form of quizzes, assessments, and contests have been proven to drive higher retention rates when delivered strategically across a learner’s calendar. Targeted, continuous learning covering the topics deemed critical to each business unit is the key to truly reducing risk.

Curriculum Analysis

On the topic of risk-based training, the DOJ recommends prosecutors ask, “What analysis has the company undertaken to determine who should be trained and on what subjects?” In line with that suggestion, a compliance curriculum analysis is a critical first step for any compliance professional interested in understanding the details of existing organizational training and it’s a necessary starting point for the reconfiguration of that curriculum to effectively address the risks. The categories covered in the analysis should include:

  • Training Type (eLearning, Live, Webinar)
  • Topic(s) Covered
  • Level of Training (Awareness, Detailed, General, etc.)
  • Length
  • Audience(s)
  • Risk Rating Per Audience (Low, Medium, High)

An instructional design analysis should also be included to determine if the proper learning objectives are established and followed, and the visuals, audio, navigation, and assessment are optimized for learning. The data should then be curated into a spreadsheet with sortable cells and columns to allow for an organized and multi-level review of all training programs and topics. At PharmaCertify, we use our Compliance Curriculum Analysis Tool, or CCAT, to assist our clients with this analysis. Once the CCAT is complete, we summarize to highlight the strengths, gaps, and redundancies in the overall curriculum.

Test and Test Again

The document also delves into the measurement of training effectiveness by encouraging prosecutors to ask if employees have been tested on what they learned and how the company has addressed employees who fail all or a portion of the testing. While the inclusion of standard assessments with each course is an assumed necessity, using assessments as learning tools has been shown to strengthen long-term memory.

A study by Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Henry Roediger III, of the Department of Psychology at Washington University revealed that learners are poor judges of what they remember, and when given the choice, they stop studying before they have mastered the subject. So even when they think they know it, they don’t, and assessments spaced repeatedly over time is the best method to increase the retention of critical compliance policies and best practices. When possible, alternative types of tests should also be deployed, including:

  • Pre- and post-training tests to measure gains scores
  • Priming assessments to encourage the formation of cognitive schema
  • Diagnostic assessments to help target remediation
  • Cumulative exams to encourage information retrieval and re-encoding

Effective Implementation, Review, and Revision

Finally, prosecutors are asked to consider whether a compliance program is a “paper program, or one implemented, reviewed, and revised, as appropriate in an effective manner.” This holds true not just for the program in general, but for the compliance training curriculum. Just as the corporation should “provide for a staff sufficient to audit, document, and analyze the results of the efforts,” the proper resources and time need to be dedicated to the evaluation of the current curriculum, with subsequent modifications conducted accordingly.

The DOJ’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs document refers to a compliance program’s capacity to evolve as a hallmark of its effectiveness. That evolution is necessary because “a company’s business changes over time, as do the environments in which it operates, the nature of its customers, the laws that govern its actions, and the applicable industry standards.” An effective life sciences compliance training curriculum must align the current business with the environment, customers, and laws, and now is the time to bring all of those components together.

I hope the insights above are helpful as you continue to improve your compliance training effectiveness throughout 2020. Thanks for reading!

 

What I Heard at the 20th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Life Sciences Compliance Congress…and What It Means for Your Compliance Training!

Dan O’Connor of PharmaCertify and a panel of industry leaders share their experiences during the training workshop at this year’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress.

Presenters at this year’s Life Sciences Compliance Congress from the Pharmaceutical Compliance Forum (PCF) covered some of the same ground as previous conferences (tone at the top, sharing resources, mine the data, etc.) while mixing in a significant amount of new content and thought-provoking ideas for the attendees to consider. PCF even added an impressive amount of “mini-summits” to the agenda to ensure the content appealed to compliance professionals dealing with a variety of risks. It was a challenging, yet worthwhile, amount of information to absorb.

Following are some of the more interesting ideas shared at the conference, along with thoughts on what they mean for the compliance industry and for anyone interested in building and maintaining a successful compliance program.

  1. “Don’t worry about developing a culture of compliance, develop a culture of integrity instead.”
    The idea of making compliance concepts more relatable or understandable is nothing new and it was discussed extensively during this year’s Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable. According to the presenters, employees understand “integrity” more than they understand building a “culture of compliance.” The panelists offered examples of how they strive to integrate the concept of integrity throughout the company – from annual integrity awards, to asking every employee to write how they model integrity and ethical behavior in their daily business activities. As they put it, “don’t make it a compliance policy issue, make it an integrity issue.”
  2. “Don’t underestimate the ability of people to rationalize.”
    The life sciences industry holds the potential to “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” While that is a noble responsibility, it holds the potential for dangerous rationalization. It’s too easy to think, “since we are saving lives, I need to get this product out faster…so I need to make this sale as quickly as possible,” or “I know my product is better than the competition, so I need to do whatever is needed to make the sale.” Continuous training is needed to instill a sense of responsibility in learners and help guard against the dangers of rationalization.
  3. “If you don’t get access to the Board as a member of the compliance team, that company is not a place you want to be.”
    Surprisingly, this one came from the AUSA Roundtable. I did not expect to hear career advice offered by a group of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, but it reinforces the notion that the compliance department must be integrated into the entire company, top to bottom, to be effective. It was a theme carried throughout the conference and led to compelling debates around topics like whether the compliance department should report to the legal department (hint: most regulators prefer to see it having the clout that comes with being a standalone department).
  4. “The shift to a patient-centered business model comes with risk.”
    During the session on “charitable contributions compliance considerations,” panelists focused on the need to avoid any suggestion that support programs and assistance programs are being used to increase sales. The separation between more sales and making products available to more patients is a fine line. As was also mentioned (and most industry insiders know), the list of Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs) focused on donations is growing. Panelists stressed the need to be careful about “where the charitable money is coming from.” If it comes from the commercial budget, it will be considered a commercial payment.
  5. “Communication style and protocol is key when dealing with co-pay foundations.”
    During the Helping Patient Access to Products session, presenters raised surprising points about the nuances of communication. As an example, “smiley face icons” in emails may seem innocuous, but they need to be avoided not only for general inappropriateness purposes, and because they hold the potential to be misleading during an investigation. Does that “wink” imply a favor or quid pro quo? The key throughout all communication is to avoid any suggestion that a support program is being used to overcome a co-pay barrier.
  6. “International cooperation across policing agencies continues to increase.”
    According to the presenters in the US DOJ and US SEC Update on FCPA Enforcement session, they are seeing a growing number of referrals from overseas regulatory bodies – significantly more than they saw ten years ago. Risk is rising, as are the number of whistleblower cases, and the panelists encouraged audience members to carefully review the DOJ’s April 2019 Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs document for what the agency considers to be the best practices for building and maintaining an effective program and reducing risk.
  7. “The lack of understanding between pharmaceutical sampling and medical device sampling is like day and night, and that makes it complicated.”
    Much of the Annual Medical Device Roundtable was understandably dedicated to the challenges associated with “asset management.” Consider that every missing, or unaccounted for, device could be considered a kickback during an investigation.  As one panelist emphasized, “the government has zero tolerance for asset management problems.” Another raised the interesting point that companies must ensure they are loaning devices to HCPs for the right reasons, and not because those HCPs want “to replace a machine that is currently not functioning” or “to use it for one test.”
  8. “Sharing resources can become political. Your initiatives may get pushed back when budgets are tightened.”
    The sessions dedicated to compliance for small to mid-sized businesses always provide unique insight to those attendees faced with limited resources and budget and this conference was no exception. The idea of reaching out to other areas of the company for support is a common refrain, and the added twist of what happens when budgets tighten was thought provoking. As the presenters explained, when compliance is a priority with corporate and with the Board, fighting that pushback gets easier. Tone at the top may be a bit cliché, but it’s a powerful weapon in the battle for time and money.
  9. “A corporate integrity agreement can be an opportunity to improve your overall compliance program.”
    Dreading the thought of a CIA is understandable, but the five years spent abiding by the terms of the settlement provides the momentum to build up a budget and showcase the importance of the program. Buy-in from corporate on resources is automatic during the CIA and it serves as the blueprint for what can be accomplished moving forward. Exiting the CIA is the time to evaluate lessons learned and evaluate methods for making the compliance program even stronger. From a training standpoint, the end of a CIA is also the time to evaluate what mandated programs were successful and explore opportunities to deploy more targeted, role-based training.
  10. “Your risk assessment needs to guide your monitoring and make it more meaningful.” This is actually a hybrid of statements made by Mary Riordan of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) during her much-anticipated annual speech and multiple presenters throughout the two days of presentations. The bottom line: a successful compliance program cannot be a cookie cutter effort, replicated from one company to another. Risks assessments need to be conducted at least on an annual basis and every aspect of the compliance program, including training, should be evaluated and modified accordingly. Continuous improvement is needed to make it meaningful and relevant.

What Else Does It Means for Your Compliance Training?

Whether you work in the pharmaceutical or medical device industry, the world of compliance is evolving, and the design and delivery of training must evolve as well. Based on the information shared in the OIG, DOJ, and AUSA sessions, the guidelines for who receives what training, at what frequency, needs to be enhanced.

As an example, during the session on reducing risk using a portfolio approach to compliance training, panelists discussed the need to integrate contextual reminders like vis aids, static prompts like intranet banners and poster, and active prompts like emails and desk drops to more effectively change behavior and facilitate a shift to that “culture of integrity.” The need to “make compliance training stick” is growing and now is the time to reevaluate your training curriculum and delivery methods.

Thanks for reading, I hope to see you at the “21” Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in 2020!

Sean Murphy
Product and Marketing Manager
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

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!