Open Payments Funding and Another Kickback Case in the News

An Open Payments letter from two senators, a list of diabetes drugs from Nevada, near silence from the Office of Prescription Drug and Promotion (OPDP), and an unsealed kickback case…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! There’s nothing like a day of food, family, friends, and parades (and of course, football!) to kick off the holiday season. Can’t you just smell the turkey and fixings permeating the hallways and your olfactory senses now? Before we go unpack our “Thanksgiving pants,” we’ll leave you with a different type of tasty morsel: a new edition of the Compliance News in Review. Bon appetit!

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Grassley don’t want to see CMS’s Center for Program Integrity (CPI) left at the kids’ table. They sent a letter to the acting Health and Human Services Secretary urging that funding for the CPI be made a priority. The CPI is responsible for managing the Open Payments database. The letter includes references to “recent reports that have raised concerns about the effect payments to health professionals may have on opioid prescribing practices, which in many ways has exacerbated this ongoing public health epidemic.”

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services published its list of three dozen diabetes drugs that are subject to the State’s new transparency law. Manufacturers with a drug on the list will have to report a variety of financial information, including costs associated with production the drug; rebates and coups offered; and profits earned from the drug. Regulations for reporting the information are still pending.

Will the OPDP pass on dessert at Thanksgiving Dinner? OPDP is on pace to issue a record low number of letters this year. So far, only two letters have been issued. In 2016, the agency issued five in the first six months, then in December, it issued six more. The letter count has steadily declined over the last sixteen years. Will 2017 will be a record low?

On the social media front, Twitter upped its character limit to 280, and according to social media manager, Andrew Grojean, pharmaceutical marketers should take advantage of the expanded word count. Grojean says the change does not solve all the issues related to use of the platform, but it provides more freedom and flexibility, as well as more space for the required fair balance.

Did Eli Lilly over stuff the turkey? A recently unsealed whistle blower case alleges that the company provided kickbacks to boost sales of its drugs. According to the suit, the company offered nursing services to HCPs through a third-party to induce doctors to prescribe three of its drugs. Allegedly, the nurses essentially acted as sales reps even though they were supposed to be providing independent medical advice and disease state education.

With that, we end this holiday edition of the Compliance News in Review. In the spirit of the season, we are thankful to all who take the time to read our tome on a regular basis, and as always, we invite you to contact our editor, Sean Murphy, with your feedback. He can be reached at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Have a fun and festive Thanksgiving holiday!

The Los Angeles City Attorney opens an investigation against one pharmaceutical company, while the founder of another is indicted on federal racketeering charges.

This year’s World Series brought record-setting excitement and late nights (more like wee hours of the morning for those of us in the East) for fans of America’s game. Congratulations to the Houston Astros, who outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a seven-game extravaganza, just as Sports Illustrated predicted…three years in advance!

If you’re searching for a new pastime to fill the void left by passing of another season, we have just the ticket. Step into the batter’s box as we present all the life sciences compliance news fit to blog, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Leading off this week, a Wisconsin state legislator introduced a bill that will require drug manufacturers to notify the state in advance if they plans to increase the price of a drug by more than 25%. The lawmaker cited the costs to Medicaid budgets and a lack of transparency with consumers as the justification for the bill.

There’s no “Dodging” the Los Angeles City Attorney for Avanir Pharmaceuticals. On the heels of a CNN report, the City Attorney announced that he intends to open an investigation into the company’s prescribing practices for elderly patients in nursing homes. The report pointed to a rise in prescriptions for the drug in question, even though the studies supporting use with elderly patients are lacking. Top prescribers allegedly received speaking and consulting payments from the company.

Canada is pulling facilitation payments from the mound. The Canadian government announced it will repeal the exception for facilitation payments from its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. The repeal was effective October 31. The law had previously permitted payment to expedite routine services, such as obtaining permits and scheduling inspections.

In news from overseas, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), the group responsible for overseeing adherence to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice (APBI), saw a rise of more than 40% in the number of complaints it received in 2016 about marketing and promotional practices. The complaints led to 100 new cases, with more than half of those resulting in the determination that the Code was breached.

Insys is on the losing end of a doubleheader, with the founder being indicted on federal charges and a New Jersey doctor potentially losing his license for allegedly accepting kickbacks from the company. The founder was indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The company has been accused of promoting its opioid product for off-label uses and paying kickbacks to healthcare professionals.

The attorney for the New Jersey doctor says his client has never been the subject of a disciplinary hearing, or had a patient complaint in 25 years of practice, and he welcomes the chance to present his case to the medical board.

Speaking of New Jersey, a public hearing was held to receive feedback on the state’s pending regulation, “Limitations on Obligations Associated with Acceptance of Compensation from Pharmaceutical Manufacturers by Prescribers.” The regulation, which was announced by Governor Christie in late summer, includes restrictions related to transfers of value to prescribers of prescription drugs.  Many of the groups in attendance have expressed concern that the regulation’s $10,000 per year cap on bona fide services payments would have unintended consequences on clinical research. The New Jersey Attorney General stated that while some revision is possible, the State is committed to moving forward with the regulation. Public comments will be accepted through December 1.

With that, we end this “boys of summer (and well into fall)” edition of the Compliance News in Review. One final note: if you’re attending the 18th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington DC, November 6-8, stop by Booth 112 (back by all the good food!) to see demos of our newest compliance training solutions and the Compliance 365 Continuous Learning System.

See you in Washington!

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!

Compliance News in Review, August 21, 2017

Opioid investigations expand; the FDA plans drug advertising studies; DOJ units team up for healthcare sector FCPA investigations; the Sunshine Act is out in South Korea; and a big settlement could signal a new enforcement avenue; all casting a shadow in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Here comes the sun, and the moon, and a shadow. It’s eclipse fever! The total eclipse over the continental U.S. was one for the record books, and had people flocking to places like Alliance, NE, Hopkinsville, KY, and Red Bank, SC. If you couldn’t make it to the path of totality this time, you have seven years to plan for the next event.

The shadow of the investigation into the business practices opioid makers use continues to spread. In an SEC filing, Mylan revealed it has received a subpoena from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information about its opioid business practices. The company, a relatively small player in the opioid market, said it is cooperating with the request.

The FDA, hoping to shed some light on disclosures in drug advertising, has proposed two studies that will focus on how safety information is perceived. The first study will involve patient recall of important safety information presented in print, direct to consumer ads. The second will include oncologists, primary care physicians, and non-oncology mid-level practitioners. It will focus on the effectiveness of disclosures related to preliminary or descriptive clinical and scientific data.

The DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section announced a partnership between its Healthcare Fraud Unit’s Corporate Strike Force and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecutors. Speaking at an anticorruption conference, the acting chief of the Criminal Fraud Unit said, “This increased coordination will ensure that companies, their executives, employees, and agents are held to account for the payment of bribes and kickbacks to foreign and domestic officials and actors regardless of the market.” He also urged companies to empower compliance teams to take steps to make their anticorruption programs better.

South Korea is the latest nation to bring sunshine to industry-physician relationships. The country has enacted a transparency law like the U.S. Sunshine Act. The law applies to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and covers a wide range of recipients including pharmacists, herbalists, and acupuncturists, in addition to physicians. Transfers of value covered by the new law include product samples, academic conference sponsorships, food, beverage, and other items (e.g. pens, notepads). Transfers of value must be reported on one of seven reporting templates, and companies must begin collecting data on January 31, 2018.

Is a bad moon rising over industry relationships with patient assistance charities? Recently, United Therapeutics announced it had reserved $210 million in anticipation of a settlement with the government over activities involving a copay assistance charity. Other companies have disclosed that they are subject to investigations as well. Charities do not face the same restrictions as pharmaceutical companies when offering co-pay assistance and the contributions companies make to charities can be considered kickbacks. According to an attorney with Morgan and Morgan, the United Therapeutics announcement is likely to send “shock waves” through the industry.

With that, we end this shadowy edition of the Compliance News in Review. Until next time, we leave you with a total eclipse of the sun, er…Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Compliance News in Review, July 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Compliance News in Review, June 13, 2017

States with new laws, lawsuits and more; HHS says drug pricing is a top issue; the AMA takes aim at DTC ads again; and transparency efforts and more from Europe…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The magic, mystery, and “monstering” of the summer movies season is in full swing! From super-heroes to lush gothic tales, there’s something for everyone this summer. There’s nothing like escaping to the theater on a rainy summer day. Can’t you just smell the popcorn and taste the Milk Duds? Before you head off to take in the latest blockbuster or art house feature, silence your cell phone and enjoy this screening of the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

We begin with a trilogy of compelling releases. The Nevada legislature passed a bill that would have required makers of diabetes drugs to report drug pricing information to the State. The bill was forwarded to the governor, who promptly vetoed it. Undaunted, State senators revised the bill; removing the requirements to which the governor objected and adding provisions that apply to all drug manufacturers. It was passed, and in an ending fit for Hollywood, the governor has said he is “proud to sign” the new bill. The law will require manufacturers to report pricing for diabetes drugs, and all manufacturers must now supply a list of sales representatives who work in the State. Additionally, all transfers of value from Nevada sales representative to HCPs must be reported each year, including those to mid-level practitioners and office staff.

It’s a wrap on a new law concerning generic drug pricing in Maryland. Generic drug makers will now be fined when a price increase causes a product’s wholesale acquisition price (WAC) to increase by more than 50% in one year, or if the drug’s WAC is greater than $80. Maryland’s expressed concern that the bill did not address the cost of patented drugs and devices, and that it may result in citizens not having access to some generic drugs. Concerns aside, the governor did not veto the bill. The law will go into effect October 1.

The Washington D.C. Department of Health has posted several FAQs related to AccessRx. The FAQs cover a variety of issues including reporting timelines, advertising expenses, and gift reporting.

HHS Secretary, Dr. Tom Price, says drug pricing is a coming attraction for the agency. In testimony before the senate budget committee, Price said the president has directed him to develop proposals to lower drug costs. He also said meetings with stakeholders have already taken place.

This attraction is rated “P” for pricing. At the AMA’s annual meeting, the group will consider a proposal urging drug manufacturers to list drug prices in DTC ads. The proposal was introduced by several New England medical societies, and advocates who have been pushing federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA, to compel drug companies to include retail pricing information in DTC ads. The proposal will need to be approved by the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates before being presented to the larger body.

From the foreign film division, a story of transparency. German doctors will be able to voluntarily disclose payments they receive from drug companies in a database managed by the non-profit journalism group, Correctiv. According to a study conducted by Correctiv, 71,000 German doctors received 575 million Euros worth of payments from the industry last year. The study also found that only 29% of doctors were willing to have their payment information published.

Two companies have been publicly reprimanded for breaches of the ABPI Code of Practice. In one case, a media agency published the work it did for the company to promote the agency’s creative capabilities. The work was out-of-date and no longer accurate. Even though the company did not give the agency permission to publish the work, and voluntarily reported the incident, it was found to have violated Clause 2 of the Code of Practice; bringing discredit upon and reducing confidence in the industry. In the other breach, another company was reprimanded for distributing a patient support leaflet with inaccurate and misleading information. The company was asked to issue a corrective statement to the healthcare providers who had already received the leaflet.

The last story is a good reminder of the importance of making sure your compliance training extends to vendors and other third parties. In bribery cases, we see the damage that can be caused when third parties run afoul of laws and regulations. Vendors and other third parties need to be evaluated for the risk associated with their services and targeted training should be provided based on that risk.

With that, we roll the closing credits on this edition of the Compliance News in the Review. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you at the movies!

Compliance News in Review, May 22, 2017

Insider trading baseball; PhRMA changes the rules; shorter FCPA investigations; praise for Medicines Australia transparency efforts; and a Chinese television drama all about anticorruption. The heat is on in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The “official” start of summer is just around the corner and the sun, sand, and ‘squitos will be here before you can say “turn up the air conditioning.” Considering the late winter-like weather many have been experiencing around the U.S. (we feel your pain Colorado), a little heat and humidity sounds like a good idea. Before we restock the sunblock supply and head for the beach (or “down the shore” if you happen to reside in New Jersey), let’s review what has been heating up the newswires, with this issue of the Compliance News in Review.

A former “boy of summer” Doug DeCinces, was found guilty of insider trader for acting on non-public information related to the sale of a medical device company. Prosecutors claimed the former major league baseball player received information from his neighbor, the CEO of a medical device company, about the pending sale of the company to Abbott Laboratories. Prosecutors claimed DeCinces, who was found guilty on 14 felony counts, made stock trades based on the information and tipped others about the sale. His lawyer plans to file a motion for a new trial.

The heat is on at PhRMA. New rules regarding membership in the organization went into effect recently, and promptly led to the ouster of several companies. The new rules require member companies to spend at least 10% of sales on global research and development over three years. Companies must also spend at least $200 million a year on research. Seven companies were unable to meet the new requirements and lost their membership.

Some doctors felt the need to share their warm feelings for Medicines Australia’s transparency efforts. A pair of physicians, and the leader of the Greens party, who is also a doctor, penned a letter to the Australian Medical Journal, praising the organization’s move to increase transparency in industry/HCP relationships. The letter suggests that pharmaceutical and medical device companies follow Medicines Australia’s lead.

As the summer days grow longer, FCPA investigations could be getting shorter. During a conference, Trevor McFadden, acting principal deputy assistant attorney general, for the Department of Justice, expressed his hope that future FCPA investigations will “be measured in months, not years. FCPA thought leaders believe that narrowing the self-reporting window will help control the scope of investigations, but interviewing witnesses in foreign countries can be time consuming.

A television program focused on anti-corruption in government is heating up the Chinese airwaves. The Chinese government usually bans artistic endeavors related to anti-corruption, but the drama, In the Name of the People, has the support and “green-backing” of the government. The show follows the story of an upstanding detective who investigates government corruption in a fictional Chinese province. The program is the top show on Chinese television, and nearly a dozen similar programs are in production.

The focus on anticorruption efforts around the world continues to grow. Does your training extend beyond the FCPA to cover countries like China, Mexico, and Brazil? The newly update Compliance Foundations™ eLearning module, Global Anticorruption Laws introduces learners to the regulations, and the affect they have on their daily work lives and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in general. Contact us to see a content outline or demo.

Thanks for reading!