Kicking Out Kickbacks in the Medical Device Industry

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits the exchange of anything of value to induce or reward the referral of federal health care program business. Business processes that are perfectly legitimate in other industries, like entertaining clients, or providing gifts to prospects, can be tricky in the medical device industry. Identifying the activities hold the potential to implicate the Anti-Kickback Statute is key to reducing risk across a medical device company.

Here are five areas to evaluate for risk:

Device Loaners/Evaluation Units
Device loaners and evaluation units are big risks. Be sure to provide only as many units as needed for evaluation, and for no longer than is necessary for the evaluation. If the loaner is provided to temporarily replace a broken unit, make sure the loan period does not continue past the time necessary to complete the service work.

Pricing Discounts
Pricing discounts require a level of transparency on the part of the seller and the buyer. Purchase agreements must clearly disclose the discount, and purchasers should be advised in writing that they too need to disclose the discount when they submit information to federal healthcare programs for reimbursement.

Gifts, Meals, Travel
Providing meals, gifts, travel and hospitality to an individual who is in a position to purchase, or recommend the use of a product, is risky. Gifts that do not have an educational benefit for the recipient or patients are particularly problematic.

When a gift is provided, the value should be nominal and cash or cash equivalents are never appropriate. Avoid lavish meals, and make sure meals occur in locations that are conducive to holding a business, educational, or scientific discussion. Finally, do not provide lavish travel or hospitality for company training or meetings.

Consulting Agreements
Remember to establish the objectives for consulting engagements with healthcare professionals (HCPs) prior to the start of the business relationship and only use as many consultants as needed to achieve the objectives. Timelines need to be included in the agreement and the consultants must be compensated at fair market value. The consulting relationship needs to be disclosed during the program.

Grants and Donations
Establish processes to objectively evaluate requests for grants and donations. Support should not be awarded to induce or reward the purchase or recommendation of product. Support of educational grants should not be contingent on the ability to select faculty or determine content of the program.

Medical Device Anti-Kickback Training
Our Compliance Foundations medical device eLearning modules cover critical topics such as the Anti-Kickback Statute, interactions with healthcare professionals, transparency, and speaker programs. Course titles include The AdvaMed Code; Global Anticorruption Laws; Medical Device Compliance Overview; and On-label Promotion. To see a demo and learn more, please contact Dan O’Connor at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com or 609-483-6875.

Thanks for reading!

Lauren Barnett, Senior Compliance Specialist

To Use Employees as Actors for Compliance Training or Not: That is the Question

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage,” but when that stage is your training video, should your colleagues be the players? Before taking the leap and giving employees their “fifteen minutes,” you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages and determine how each approach could help or hurt the effectiveness of your compliance curriculum. At PharmaCertify™, we have differing opinions based on first-hand experiences developing compliance training and corporate video programs. Here’s where two of us landed.

The Case for Using Employees as Actors
Lauren Barnett, Compliance Content Specialist

One obvious reason to use employees in your compliance training is the cost. Actors, even non-union ones, are expensive. Depending on the level of the skill the actor brings to the table, the cost of talent can be one of the top expenses in your video. A video shoot can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the requirements of your project, so using the “free labor” you have at your fingertips can have a significant impact on the overall cost of the project.

Businesses and industries often have their own jargon. Add the medical or product-specific lingo that may need to be included in the training, and understanding the script for your compliance video could be like learning a new language. Your colleagues will be more authentic when delivering jargon-laden lines on camera. Actors won’t have the contextual experience with the language to deliver lines naturally or with confidence. Your learners do have familiarity with the language and they’ll notice when the actors aren’t comfortable and the learning will suffer.

Finally, using employees from the compliance department, or other departments the learners only interact with on a remote level, humanizes those departments and has the potential to build a stronger rapport between compliance and the rest of the company. Too often, the compliance department is seen in a negative light, or as the “police,” who are just waiting for employees to do something wrong. A truly effective compliance training curriculum addresses that concern, and includes components designed to portray those responsible for policy and training as partners who are there to support, encourage and inform. Using team members as actors in the compliance training is one major step toward that goal.

The Case Against Using Employees as Actors
Sean Murphy, Product and Marketing Manager

You may see your coworkers as free talent, but they aren’t professional talent. Acting is an art and a skill, and the fact an employee “was in a play in high school,” doesn’t necessarily mean that colleague is a trained actor. Good actors, even those working in local theater, have typically trained for years in their craft. You might get lucky and have a gem or two in your free talent pool, but when you use someone who is not comfortable or experienced, you run the risk of the key messages being lost behind the bad acting.

You also have to consider the cost to the business in lost productivity when employees are spending their time trying to convincingly read lines. Video shoots are time-consuming (especially when multiple takes are required because the actors are not professionals) and often require the actors to be “on set” for a number of hours. When your colleagues are pulled away from their jobs for that extended period of time, others may have to do their work, or they will at least have to book extra hours to make up the work they missed.

Finally, yes, employees can add an air of authenticity to your video, but it comes with the risk of your learners focusing on the fact they are watching “Bill from Marketing” in a video. Your key training messages may be lost because the learner’s attention is focused on the fact that is “Bill from Marketing,” instead of the subject matter. Additionally, if the audience includes vendors, they won’t know Bill, so he’s just another actor for them, so any authenticity is lost, and if Bill isn’t a good actor, he’s now a distraction as well.

What’s Your Verdict?

Using colleagues as actors can add an element of authenticity and fun to your training videos and can certainly help with the budget department. Before moving ahead in casting colleagues, it is important to consider the training goals of the video and determine if using colleagues will serve those goals or will simply be a distraction.

Now, we want to know what you think. Have you tried using your coworkers as actors in your compliance training? Did it work well? What were the pitfalls? Do you agree with Lauren or Sean? Who gets the bragging rights this time? Contact Sean at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com to let us know.

Buy or Build: Is Off-the-Shelf or Custom Online Compliance Training Right for You?

During a recent compliance conference panel session, a chief compliance officer from a mid-size pharmaceutical company proclaimed, “I only use custom for online training,” and “off-the-shelf just doesn’t meet my content needs.” She went on to explain that with custom-developed training, she could target specific topics and include company-specific policies in a way that she never could with off-the-shelf.

Fair point, but she failed to take into consideration that while custom-developed training can indeed be built to focus on the compliance content she needs to cover, well-built, flexible off-the-shelf training provides a solid foundation of knowledge, which can then be supplemented with targeted, custom micro-learning in the future, as gaps and custom needs demand.

Start with Off-the-Shelf

Small to mid-size pharmaceutical and medical device companies need effective training covering core topics such as off-label promotion, transparency, gifts and meals, and adverse events, but the training resources and budgets available to many compliance departments, which often consist of a staff of one or two, are quite limited. Instructionally sound, industry-focused, off-the-shelf training can easily and quickly provide core compliance training, without draining your limited resources and time.

For obvious reasons, off-the-shelf, even when tailored to include your specific policies and contact information, can be deployed more quickly than a fully custom training course. Review times are shortened and less demanding, and when a need for training on a specific topic (e.g., speaker presentations) is identified, off-the-shelf gives you the flexibility to deploy rapidly while the topic is still top of mind to your learners. Moreover, with quality off-the-shelf training, content is developed by someone with specific knowledge of the industry, and expertise in commercial compliance. Therefore, your time isn’t consumed with being the primary subject matter expert.

A Time and Place for Custom

This is a need for custom online learning in an effective compliance training curriculum – one that addresses all of your organizational risks and truly helps to build a positive compliance culture. The most recent research points to the importance of spacing learning over time and providing review and reinforcement exercises after the initial training is launched to improve retention. As educational psychologist Steven Just, Ed.D., founder and former CEO of the assessment company, Pedagogue, writes, “To learn, you must cognitively act upon the learning materials, and to retain what you have learned, you must actively re-engage with the learning repeatedly over a period of time.” Starting with off-the-shelf, then mixing in smaller, more cost effective, custom mini modules and interactivities (video scenarios, games, assessments) over time and across a well thought out compliance training plan, has been proven to support on-going behavior change – a key objective in the world of commercial compliance.

Summary

While custom online compliance training should certainly play a role in the on-going execution of your compliance training plan, launching a foundation of targeted, off-the-shelf courses to address important topics to a broad audience represents a rational and cost-effective starting point for any life sciences company’s compliance training curriculum.

Don’t forget to “follow” the PharmaCertify™ blog by clicking the blue link on the right so you don’t miss our updates. Coming soon, The Right Stuff: What Compliance Topics to Cover in Your Product Launch Training.

Thanks for reading and stay compliant!

Sean Murphy, Product and Marketing Manager PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

Week in Review, August 27, 2014

Another industry organization calls for a change to the Sunshine Act, manufacturers claim data entered into Open Payments is now lost, the Supreme Court is petitioned to review the definition of instrumentality as it pertains to the FCPA, and questions are raised about potential reporting loopholes in the Medicine’s Australia Code of Conduct.

Bananas, fish fingers and custard for all! Doctor Who, season eight, is here! Finally, 12 makes his debut, and we can only hope that he still thinks bow ties and fezzes are cool. And can we just take a moment to thank BBC America for scheduling Doctor Who to run here in the U.S. when it runs on BBC 1? Now we don’t have to spend months trying to avoid news about the show, like we do for Downton Abbey. So let’s jump in the TARDIS and take a journey back in time with this week’s News in Review.

Exterminate! Exterminate! That’s the sentiment of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) regarding CMS’ proposed change to the rule in the Sunshine Act about payments for CME. The Council said the current exemption for payments associated with accredited CME needs to remain in place for several reasons. First, a distinction should be maintained between accredited and certified CME and other educational programs in order to preserve the independence of CME programs. Second, faculty payments should not be subject to reporting because the faculty member’s relationship is with the CME provider, not the manufacturer. Finally, attendees of accredited CME should not be subject to the reporting of payments, because like faculty, attendees have no relationship with the manufacturers providing grants for a program.

Speaking of Sunshine, after Open Payments came back online, drug and device manufacturers reported that payment data once in the system is now gone. CMS says the missing data is due to matching issues. Some of the issues are the result of a data marrying problem that took the system down recently. In other cases, information such as license numbers and names do not exactly match the information in CMS’s database. Policy and Medicine was informed by manufacturers and physicians alike that information that was accurate in Open Payments is now missing. One manufacturer claims all of its clinical research data is now gone. According to the article, the problem could be with the NPPES (National Plan and Provider Enumeration System) database. Portions of New Jersey doctors’ state license numbers were cut off in the database. Also, an analysis last year by the OIG found that almost half of the NPPES records that were inspected contained at least one inaccurate piece of information.

What is instrumentality under the FCPA? We could ask the Inner Council on Gallifrey, but since that is fictional (what!?), the U.S. Supreme Court will have to do. The high court has been petitioned by two individuals convicted of bribery under the FCPA to review a federal appeals court’s definition of an “instrumentality.” The two were convicted of paying kickbacks to employees of a government-owned telecommunications company. The government argued the telecom company was an instrumentality of the government, and the appeals court agreed.

 

Some advocacy groups are already looking for a regeneration of Medicines Australia’s transparency requirements in the latest edition of that group’s Code of Conduct. The Code is pending authorization by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The organizations have petitioned the ACCC to not authorize Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct based on potential loopholes that will allow physicians to opt out of having their payment information publicly disclosed.

 

Well, that bring us to the end of this week’s episode. Based on the plethora of recent news stories related to Open Payments, the demand for transparency when dealing with HCPs isn’t going away anytime soon. The Sunshine Act: The Federal Physician Spend Disclosure Law, from our PharmaCertify™ suite of customizable online compliance modules, offers the content your team needs to stay abreast of the ramifications and reporting requirements of the law. We even offer a complementary Sunshine Act mobile app to help ensure your reps have the information where they need it most – in the field and at their fingertips.

 

Have a great week everyone!

 

Have a great week everyone!

 

Week in Review, August 5, 2014

Industry groups ask CMS to help clarify context of physician payment data, a study finds most physicians have yet to visit the Open Payments website, another medical device company settles a False Claims case and Senator Grassley weighs in on the concept of a gold standard certification for compliance programs.

The calendar tells us the dog days of summer are upon us. Luckily, some of us have had a bit of a “cold spell” recently, so those dog days haven’t had quite the bite they normally do. As you seek ways to deal with the combined heat of the sun and of the Dog Star (as ancient stargazers may have believed), we offer a cool refreshing break of a different sort, with this week’s Compliance News in Review.

Industry and medical groups are putting the heat on CMS. Over 20 medical associations, PhRMA, and BIO sent a letter to CMS asking how the agency plans to help the public understand the nature and purpose of the physician data that will soon be available through Open Payments. The groups cited the recent release of Medicare Part B payments as an example of why they are concerned about proper context. They claim that context was missing when CMS released the Part B data, causing confusion as to which doctors were abusing the system and which were receiving large payments for legitimate reasons. The letter also asked CMS to reach out to the physicians and make them aware that the data will be published soon. Responding to inquiries from the Wall Street Journal, a CMS spokesperson said the agency plans to publish that nature of payments to physicians and teaching hospitals and provide context for the public.

A majority of physicians are slow to step into the Sunshine according to a new survey. The study found only 7% of physicians have visited the Open Payments website and 85% want to review payment data before it is sent to CMS. 80% want to be informed of the value of items before they accept them. The survey also indicates the majority of physicians are concerned with public perception once the data is published. Physicians seem to be more willing to accept certain payments over others. For example, only 16% of physicians said they would no longer accept meals but, 40% say they will no longer accept gifts. The study also addressed companies’ best practices in aggregate spend systems and global transparency.

On the settlement front, medical device company, Vascular Solutions, agreed to pay $520,000 to settle allegations it violated the False Claims Act by promoting its product for an unapproved use. The suit was brought by a former sales rep, and alleged the company promoted a kit for the treatment of veins deep in the leg, rather than varicose veins near the surface of the skin, the use for which it has been approved.

No gold stars for compliance programs says Senator Chuck Grassley. At a House subcommittee meeting on the False Claims Act (FCA), several witnesses referenced a Chamber of Commerce report that proposed a program through which companies could be certified as having a “gold standard” compliance program. Companies achieving the certification would be treated differently under the FCA and requirements for whistleblowers would change. In comments following the meeting, Senator Grassley said he was not in favor of a program that provided such a “get out of jail free card.” Grassley is skeptical about companies self-reporting and he claims having a certified compliance program will not change whether they do or do not self-report.

With that, we close our dog days of summer issue of the Week in Review. Have a great week everyone and we’ll see you by the pool!

Week in Review, January 14, 2014

The University of Minnesota adds a medical device degree to its curriculum, Microsoft requires its partners to take anti-corruption training, Aegerion receives a subpoena from the Department of Justice and CMS clarifies its stance on textbooks and journal reprints under Sunshine.

If you weren’t watching television Sunday, you missed a night of glittering stars, flowing wine and cutting one-liners. Even with Meryl Streep pronouncing awards season as ridiculous, millions tuned into the Golden Globes to see if their favorite movie, TV show, or actor took home the trophy. Okay…let’s face it, some of us watch just to marvel at the ridiculousness of the fashion choices, which is often far more interesting than the acceptance speeches (with the exception this year of Jacqueline Bisset’s confused rambling – what was that!?). We have winners and losers of our own (of the compliance kind) to cover in this week’s News Week in Review.

The University of Minnesota plans to award individuals a medical device master’s degree in the near future. The University is currently recruiting students for a master’s level program in medical device innovation. The program will be part of the school’s College of Science and Engineering and the first class is expected to be enrolled this June.

The question at Microsoft isn’t “who are you wearing?” it’s “who has taken anti-corruption training?” The company launched a global initiative requiring all its partners to provide anti-corruption training to “all employees who resell, distribute, or market Microsoft products or services.” Media reports claim the DOJ and SEC are investigating allegations of bribery involving Microsoft partners in several countries.

In a settlement that almost rivals the value of the jewels on the stars walking the red carpet Sunday night, Alcoa has agreed to pay $348 million to settle charges it violated the FCPA. The settlement is a joint effort between the SEC and DOJ. SEC officials said Alcoa subsidiaries repeatedly bribed officials in Bahrain and Alba in order to obtain government contracts. The company agreed to plead guilty to one count of violating the FCPA.

Here’s one envelope you don’t want to see your name on: a DOJ subpoena. Aegerion confirms it has received a subpoena from the DOJ for information related to the sale and marketing of its cholesterol drug, Juxtapid. The company’s CEO recently received a warning letter for misleading statements he made about the drug during a television interview. Aegerion says it is fully cooperating with the investigation.

As far as two clinical research professionals are concerned, the Sunshine Act should be nominated for the “Law Having the Most Negative Impact on Clinical Research” award. Gary A. Shangold, M.D., chairman of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals Board of Trustees, and Michael J. Koren, M.D., former president of the Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research, authored an article outlining how the Sunshine Act will negatively impact clinical research and medical innovation. They are concerned that the reports on payments related to research are not reflective of what the physicians are actually paid; the cost of complying with the law will divert money from research; and overall quality of care will ultimately be affected by the diminished investment in research. The two also call on lawmakers to change the legislation in order to provide a more accurate picture of the financial transactions between research physicians and the industry.

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner recently responded to an inquiry from Congress about textbooks and journal reprints not being considered educational items under the Sunshine Act. Educational items are described as those that are intended for patient use or have a direct benefit for the patient and are therefore excluded from reporting. In her letter, Ms. Tavenner said textbooks or journal reprints do not have a direct benefit for patients the way an anatomical model does. Rather, the textbooks and reprints provide a “downstream benefit” for patients so CMS believes the items should be reported as gifts or education.

With that, the band is signaling us that it’s time to wrap up the News in Review for this week, so we’ll leave you with one last note. If you’re looking for additions to your 2014 compliance training cast, PharmaCertify™ offers up-to-date modules and apps on critical topics like Adverse Events, On-label Promotion and Good Promotional Practices.

Have a great week everyone!