Lessons Learned at the 2018 Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Congress

Lesson 3: Learning to Listen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback.

Sean D. Murphy
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

Lessons Learned at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress

Lesson 1: Rules and principles can coexist.

Welcome to the first in a multi-part series based on lessons learned from the recent Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington D.C. Our goal in this series is to share best practices and tips for strengthening your compliance culture and reducing risk based on the themes and best practices heard during the three-day conference and provide suggestions on implementing those concepts from a training perspective. We begin this week with a twist on a topic that has been on the agenda for a few years now…rules vs. principles.

During the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Pharma and Device Companies panel presentation, a team of industry compliance officers and consultants discussed the challenges and opportunities brought on by limited resources and personnel. The suggestions were varied and intriguing, but one stood apart for me, especially from a training perspective. When he was offering the details of how he approached his transition to a small company compliance department, one chief compliance officer said, “it’s important to start with foundation training, and then have a conversation about culture.” In the milieu of conversation about the importance of principles, and the need for “an ethical approach to decision making,” it was refreshing to hear acknowledgement that rules-based and principles-focused approaches can co-exist and work in conjunction.

Foundational training lays the groundwork for the rules and policies that are critical for all life sciences employees to understand and incorporate into their daily activities. Although the “check the box” approach to training has been much maligned in recent years, being able to document that your staff, especially those who interact with healthcare professionals on a regular basis, have successfully completed training in topics such as HIPAA, on-label promotion, the False Claims Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute, is a critical first step. Once that foundation is established, on-going opportunities and touchpoints can be utilized to establish the “why” behind the decisions as you strive to strengthen the culture across the organization.  As was emphasized during the presentation, you need to “have a plan that builds across all work streams” to do that throughout the year. As one example, workshops with interactive activities that immerse employees in ethical scenarios are an effective method for reinforcing the principles. In addition, assessments, microlearning, and games deployed across an employee’s timeline remind learners that compliance isn’t just about rules and regulations, it’s about “doing the right thing, for the right reason.”

During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable at the conference, one participant made the point that “a principle-based philosophy helps ensure compliance throughout the company and not just at the surface level.” That’s certainly true, but from our perspective, a principle philosophy is more effective when its built on a solid foundation of policy and rules-based training.

Thanks for reading!

Sean D. Murphy
Editor
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog

Key Takeaways from the 2018 Compliance Congress West

Early morning over San Francisco, the site of the 2018 Compliance Congress West.

To say the audience at the 19th Life Sciences Compliance Congress West was energized and engaged is an understatement. The size and scope of the two-day conference led to unusually interactive discussions, with the audience eagerly sharing their experiences along with the presenters and panelists.  For someone relatively new to the field of life sciences compliance training, I found the exchange of ideas and advice quite educational and enlightening.

PharmaCertify was there as a conference sponsor and we found an agenda filled with information designed to help attendees strengthen their compliance cultures and reduce risk, which of course is a mission close to our hearts from a compliance training standpoint.  Here are my takeaways, with a focus on training of course (it’s what we do):

1. Build an ethical culture, not just a compliant one.

This was a recurring theme, and it’s a compelling one. On the surface, the line between ethics and compliance may appear inconsequential and not significant enough to be worthy of consideration. But more companies are evolving away from a rules-based approach to compliance to one that stresses ethical decision making as the foundation for their principle-based policies. It begins with a question: are people doing the right thing when no one is looking?

For us, the answer begins with a new approach to training. Modern life sciences companies need to teach the value of ethical decision making, and not just recite the rules and regulations. Training needs to instill in learners the understanding that the company trusts and expects them to do just that.

2. Hubs are in, so get that training out!

Patient support hubs are trending, and since they serve as the “connection point” for so many stakeholders (patients, providers, and physicians), they come with a high level of risk. With the influence of commercialized companies, and the lack of guidance from the Office of Inspector General and Department of Justice, patient support hubs are a hot bed of kickback and false claims risks.

Job aids, clear business rules and program guidance, and a robust training curriculum are necessary to mitigate that risk. All parties involved, including vendors, must be continuously trained on how to interact with patients and understand what they can or cannot say and do.

3. If you think PSPs and PAPs are in the regulatory spotlight, you’re right.

The scrutiny on Patient Support Programs (PSPs) and Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) is intensifying, with a growing number of settlements (Jazz Pharmaceuticals, United Therapeutics) raising questions over the idea of companies donating to independent charities. In addition to causing potential false claims and HIPAA violations, the donations raise concerns that they may be intended to induce patients to purchase certain products and implicate the Anti-Kickback Statute.

As was highlighted during the conference, PSPs and PAPs can be beneficial to patients, but commercial organizations cannot have any influence on the support being provided. Training needs to emphasize that sales representatives are not permitted to discuss specific PAPs or disease state funds with patients or healthcare professionals. And as prescription costs climb, the scrutiny and risks will continue to grow.

4. Nurse Educators: Are they here to stay?

The jury is still out. As defined during the presentation on nurse educators, “white coat marketing” refers to the use of healthcare professionals in marketing or sales activity, and therein lies the risk with the use of nurse educators. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the practice is scrutinized under the Anti-Kickback Statute because patients rely on the advice of physicians, they may “have difficulty distinguishing between medical advice and a commercial sales pitch.”

Recently unsealed qui tam cases highlight the risks and cause for concern, with one company deploying “nurse ambassadors” directly to patients’ homes and another implementing nurse-led adherence programs designed to increase product refills. Patients tend to trust the opinion and advice of their physician, and by extension, their nurse educator. However, it can be confusing for a patient to decipher advice from marketing, and exposure points emerge when nurse educators are trained similarly to sales representatives and conducting calls with those representatives. Asking yourself key questions about the training:

  • What materials do the nurse educators use (disease state, promotional, fair, balanced, etc.)?
  • Does the training focus on adherence and education instead of sales and marketing?
  • Does the training resemble sales training (e.g., overcoming objections, cold calling)?

5. Speaker Programs: How is this still happening?

The idea that speaker programs bring high levels of risk is not a secret, so much so that one audience member even asked, “how is this (insert expletive) still happening?” Good question. Selling in the life sciences industry is a relationship-based activity, and back in the “good old days,” there was little monitoring around meals, vacations, golf outings, etc. Now, the risks are rampant and include speaker selection (make sure they are credible), payments, receipts, the amount of money spent, spouses or guests in attendance, and analytics. The panelists also used Insys as a case study for the importance of communication, particularly email. Multiple documented emails within the company revealed how they were trying to utilize speakers. Training needs to emphasize the need for open, honest and communication, with no hidden agendas because as was quoted about the Insys case, “it takes a very long time to turn your ship around.”

6. Calibrate Your Compliance Training for Greater Impact

There’s plenty of guidance available from the DOJ and OIG to assist ethics and compliance professionals with determining their training priorities. The OIG guidance alone offers 49 distinct metrics for communication, education, and training. It can be a bit overwhelming, so what’s a compliance officer to do?

A presentation by Dan O’Connor of NXLevel and Jeremy Lutsky of Theravance offered attendees a practical framework for designing, developing, and implementing compliance training, beginning with the questions, “Is there a training need?” In other words, is there actually a knowledge and/or skill deficit or is there a problem with incentives, motivation, unclear expectations, etc.?

Assuming there is a training need, ethics and compliance officers can use the long-established ADDIE (Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation) process to efficiently attack the problem, beginning with analyzing risk by role in the organization. Several pragmatic approaches were shared by Dan and Jeremy, including use of the “3F” Curriculum Framework, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and a structured process for evaluating existing training.

7. The food choices in San Francisco are, well, pretty good.

The restaurant choices are clearly bountiful in the City by the Bay and we leave you today with a brief note on two that we enjoyed during our stay:

We couldn’t resist the chowder at the Hog Island Oyster Co. and we weren’t disappointed!

The Hog Island Oyster Company is nestled in the Ferry Building Marketplace, where you can watch the ferries come and go as you enjoy freshly-shucked oysters on the half shell. Choose oysters from various locations or order a dozen or two to try them all! They all come with a fresh vinaigrette or cocktail sauce if you so desire. While their main stake is oysters, the rest of the menu is not neglected. The chowder comes stacked with clams in a nice cream base with veggies, potatoes, bacon and cheese! And the fish sliders are perfectly crispy paired with a tangy coleslaw that compliments the fish nicely. From the bar, the Chardonnay from Napa was crisp and light, and the Wolfback Ridge IPA was a perfect pairing for the fish sliders.

The Douglas Room is a quaint restaurant located adjacent to the Tilden Hotel that offers a boutique gastropub vibe to transport diners to another time (think speakeasy era). The talented mixologists curate creative spins on classic martinis behind the bar to help authenticate the experience. For dinner or late-night snacks, the innovative menu features locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. We enjoyed the shishito peppers, duck confit wings, wedge salad, and Tilden burger. The portions were perfect for sharing, and the presentation was stunning. We’ll be back when the conference returns to San Francisco!

Tessa Hoyer, PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

9th Annual Life Sciences West Coast Compliance Congress: A Preview

CBI’s 9th Annual Life Sciences West Coast Compliance Congress is less than three weeks away and we’re looking forward to yet another opportunity to catch up with colleagues and clients and showcase our newest life science compliance training products. The conference gives those of us located on the other side of the country an opportunity to hear tips and best practices from industry professionals who don’t normally participate in the East Coast conferences. A quick scan of the agenda reveals company names as diverse as. Here’s a brief preview of the sessions and panel presentations scheduled for the two-day conference.

Day 1: Wednesday, October 17th 

Chief Compliance Officer Keynote Panel

After two pre-conference summits, one covering aggregate spend and the other patient support programs, the conference sets the stage with a panel of former and current chief compliance officers, moderated by John Kelly of Bass Berry & Sims, and formerly of the Department of Justice. As someone who attends a significant amount of conferences, I support this idea of diving right into the topics at hand, rather than leading off with a speaker who may bring some name recognition or star power but doesn’t necessarily speak to the primary concerns of the audience.

Enforcement Panel: Fraud and Enforcement Trends – Current and Former Perspectives

The enforcement panel scheduled for 2:15 is an interesting blend of those currently in an enforcement role (Chinhayi Coleman Cadet from the Northern District of California and Rachael Honig from New Jersey) with those who formerly served in an enforcement role and now work in the private sector (the aforementioned John Kelly of Bass Berry & Sims and Robert Marasco from Dinsmore & Shohl LLP and former AUSA from New Jersey and the Southern District of California).  The duel perspectives should provide compelling insight into the current prosecutorial trends in the life sciences industry.

Roundtable Discussion: Lessons Learned and Continuing Implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

After a networking and refreshment break, the conversation turns to the timely topic of GDPR. Clearly, there are questions and confusion around the regulation, and we’re especially hoping to hear how these panelists build and deploy training on the hot topic of GDPR. Who are they training in the organization? What topics under the GDPR umbrella are they covering? How often are they updating that training?

Immediately following the GDPR session, Day One closes with a networking, wine, and cheese reception. As you chat with your colleagues and network with new associates, we invite you to stop by the PharmaCertify Booth to learn more about our training solutions. While there, don’t forget to enter the drawing to win an Amazon Echo Smart Speaker with Alexa!

Day 2: Thursday, October 18th

Interactive Exchange: Strengthen Speaker Programs through Innovative Compliance Initiatives and Lessons Learned

Following two sessions on monitoring and auditing, the focus turns, not surprisingly, to yet another hot topic currently under the regulatory microscope, speaker programs. This session should prove to be even more enlightening and revelatory since it is billed as an “interactive exchange” with panelists listed as “conversation contributors.” Those contributors, Ishita Arora of Horizon Pharmaceuticals, Danielle Davis of Insys Therapeutics, Eric Jen of Horizon Therapeutics, and Jenny Shire of Daiichi Sankyo, are sure to have the full attention of an audience hungry for suggestions on how to manage risk in planning and executing the programs.

Choose Between Two Master Classes (A-B)

Before a networking lunch break, attendees have the option to choose between two “master classes” focused on topics that continue to be a source of risk.

Master Class A: Take Action in Light of New Regulatory Updates Surrounding Promotional Compliance and Off-Label Communication

During CBI’s Compliance Congress earlier this year, we learned that the regulatory focus on off-label promotion has shifted somewhat from larger companies to emerging companies and start-ups. Off-label concerns continue to be at the top of qui tam cases, and we’ll be curious to hear the steps Sharon Delshad of Nalpropion Pharmaceuticals and Gary Messplay from King & Spalding recommend for reducing off-label risk

Master Class B: Navigate Third-Party Relationships and Outsourcing Arrangements

For companies that utilize third-party entities for global transactions, Richard J. Ciamacca of Amring Pharmaceuticals, which positions itself as a company that “sells uniquely positioned and harder-to-manufacture generics that bring value to customers and patients,” will offer his insights on navigating the potential risks of those relationships.

Calibrate to Your Organization’s Size – Compliance Program Benchmarking Based on Company Resources

Anytime I see “benchmarking” in the title for a session, I am intrigued. It’s one of the reasons attendees are so interested in attending conferences like these, they want to benchmark their activities and programs against others in the industry. This hour-long session is divided into three presentations: How Companies Can Collect Leads and Advertise Digitally Without Violating Patient Privacy with Sharon Delshad of Nalpropion; Managed Markets Compliance – Mitigate Risks in Relationships with Payers; and Collaborate with Medical Affairs and Elevate MSL Oversight with Tim Ayers from Life Science Compliance Consulting LLC and Gregory S. Moss from Kadmon.

Summary

CBI has a well-earned reputation for organizing compliance conferences that bring together an impressive array of professionals and government representatives to share tips, best practices, and lessons learned. The 9th Annual Life Sciences West Coast Compliance Congress is no exception.

As a proud sponsor of the 9th Annual Life Sciences West Coast Compliance Congress, we can offer you a $500 discount on the regular registration price. It’s not too late to register at this special rate, but the discount certificates are limited. Contact me at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com if you are considering attending. If you’re already registered, we look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
Marketing Manager and Compliance Training Insights Blog Editor
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

4th Annual Life Sciences Compliance Congress for Specialty Products: A Preview

CBI’s Compliance Congress for Specialty Products kicks off next Thursday, September 13th in Boston, and Dan O’Connor, Senior Vice President for PharmaCertify, will be there to catch up with our clients and colleagues and hear industry leaders and government regulators share strategies for proactively addressing current risks for specialty pharmaceutical manufacturers.

We’ve reviewed the conference agenda and here are the sessions and presentations we are looking forward to in particular:

Day One, Thursday, September 13

Prosecutors’ Perspectives Panel

Following the opening keynote address, the conference begins with this prosecutor panel focused on biotech and specialty pharma companies. Charles Grabow, Assistant US Attorney from New Jersey, and Gregg Shapiro, Chief of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit for the DOJ in Boston, will be joined by Jane Yoon from Paul Hastings, LLP, to discuss the high-risk areas for this unique industry group. Government panels typically offer some of the most compelling and important information during conferences and since this conference is focused on such a defined segment of the industry, the conversation should be revealing and educational.

Coping Strategies for the Lonely Compliance Officer

In addition to having the most creative name of any of the presentations, this session features three professionals facing the challenges that come with being a compliance professional for an emerging pharmaceutical company. We will be curious to hear how Heather Godling from Sobi, Francisco Ribeiro of Tesaro, and Sarah Whipple at Akebia Therapeutics, creatively utilize the limited personnel and resources available to them to build and maintain a strong culture of compliance.

Expert Panel: Evaluate the Risks Associated with Disease State Awareness and Other Pre-Launch Activities

The “Pre-Launch Activities” part of this title caught my eye. No matter their growth stage, all companies need to be aware of the compliance risks and concerns they face now and as they progress toward launch. That extends to compliance policies regarding interactions with healthcare practitioners. Ideally, compliance training for a new sales team should be built and planned before the product is commercialized.

Ensure Transparency in Contributions to Independent Patient Assistance Foundations
And
Reboot Your Approach to Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) and Reimbursement HUB Support  

Patient support programs are an emerging enforcement trend in the pharmaceutical industry as more and more companies enter into settlements at least partly related to the programs (e.g., Aegerion, United Therapeutics, Jazz Pharmaceuticals). Add the high cost of specialty pharmaceutical products to the mix, and it’s no surprise that CBI has scheduled back-to-back sessions on this important topic.

Day Two, Friday, September 14

Daybreak Discussion: Specialty Café – Forecasting Priorities from Now to 2020

In a novel presentation structure spread across two consecutive time slots (8:15 – 8:40 and 8:45 – 9:10), attendees will have the opportunity to sit in small groups, share ideas and listen to their peers discuss three timely topics: Risk-based Approaches for Advanced Therapies; PBM Contracting Considerations; and Compliant Medical Affairs and Commercial Interactions. The format offers a welcome twist  from the typical large group presentation and should lead to a compelling exchange of peer-to-peer ideas. It’s a great idea.

Explore the Trends in Drug Pricing Legislation and Other State Initiatives

John Oroho, from Porzio Life Sciences, LLC, is a respected and established thought leader in the life sciences compliance industry and his presentation is a can’t miss opportunity to hear the latest news and regulatory updates on these two ever-evolving topics.

Scale Up Your Compliance Program for Global Operations

Going global can be fraught with risk and compliance traps. In terms of anti-bribery alone, pharmaceutical companies need to now consider Loi Bertrand, the EFPIA Code, the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, and a cadre of emerging codes and regulations around the world.  These on-going changes in the global landscape make the presentation by Masha Chestukhin of Sanofi, and Darryl Williams of MediSpend, an important pre-lunch session.

GDPR is Here – Now What Do We Do?

Are you confused about the General Protection Privacy Regulation (aka, GDPR) and its impact on you as a pharmaceutical compliance professional? You’re not alone. The questions concerning details like data inventory and documentation abound, and what exactly does it mean when data subjects have the “right to be forgotten?” What about training? Who needs to be trained? How does it impact the field employees interacting with HCPs? We look forward to hearing answers, ideas and opinions from David Ryan, Vice President, Associate General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer at Epizyme and Trish Shorey, Privacy Officer, Global Compliance and Risk Management at Shire.

If you’re attending the conference, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you think of the sessions and presenters, and conference content. And of course, if you see Dan, he’d be happy to share demos of our newest compliance training solutions and discuss how we help clients build a stronger culture of compliance and reduce risk.  

Thanks for reading!

News and Notes from the 15th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress

CBI’s annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress, which took place April 23rd to the 25th in Washington DC, featured industry leaders and government representatives espousing the usual best practices for building and maintaining an effective compliance program, but this year’s agenda offered a few surprises and changes in the regulatory wind. The notes below highlight some of the sessions we found to be particularly interesting and newsworthy.

Day 1

CCO Exchange – Adapting and Evolving Compliance Programs in Support of Innovation

Following the opening remarks and a session covering politics and the pharmaceutical industry, the conference kicked into gear as Maggie Feltz of Purdue Pharma, Jennifer McGee of Otsuka, Jill Fallows Macaluso of Novo Nordisk, and Sujata Dayal of Johnson & Johnson discussed their process for “partnering with business” in the company to maximize the strength of their compliance programs. The panelists stressed the importance of establishing a relationship with business that is built on open dialogue and trust.  Documentation is also key to that relationship and as one panelist pointed out, “the government cares about how you document that you are preventing issues.” It’s important to “shape the way you are perceived in the relationship by using business language,” she emphasized, and to measure your own effectiveness by simply determining whether business is inviting you back to the table. Your compliance program is only effective if you have a seat at that table.

Once the partnership is established, you need to “get the business to think and talk about risk and conduct a benefit-risk analysis,” according to one panelist. Another reminded the audience that Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs) hold important clues about topics of focus for the government. This is particularly enlightening considering the recent Aegerion and United Therapeutics CIAs that dealt with third-party patient assistance programs, a topic discussed throughout the conference.

The panelists also covered working with third-party vendors and the need for monitoring and testing of those vendors to ensure they are complying. As one panelist put it, “you need to be sure those companies are applying your standards.”

Stakeholder Spotlight – Strategies for Collaborating with Business Partners to Enhance Compliance Enterprise-Wide   

Gail Cawkwell, Medical Affairs at Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Cecilia Matthews, Human Resources at MedImmune, Gregory Moss, Deputy General Counselor at Kadmon, and Gary Cupit, CEO of PortA Pharmaceuticals provided the business perspective on the compliance/business partnership. The panelists reiterated key points from the CCO session, with one emphasizing the need for the two departments to tackle the issues together as business partners and another seeing compliance not as a goal, but “a base objective that underlies everything.”

One panelist emphasized the need to be aggressive in the approach, pointing out that she is the person “bothering the compliance department, digging into SOPs, asking why they do things that way, and asking how each policy helps the company.”  She prides herself on partnering with compliance to “find a better way to do it.”

Highly-Acclaimed U.S. Healthcare Fraud and Enforcement Panel – Past and Present Prosecutor Parley

A large group of current and past government enforcement representatives covered the current compliance risks facing the life sciences industry. The session started with a discussion about the nation’s opioid crisis and how each office is addressing the epidemic. One current assistant U.S. attorney summarized the threat to the industry succinctly, “If your company is involved in opioids at all, you are under intense scrutiny.”

In one of the more interesting moments of the conference, the panelists pointed out that the focus on off-label enforcement has shifted away from large pharmaceutical companies to smaller ones. According to one speaker, small companies and startups are under greater pressure to sell and to save money, especially if they are funded by venture capital companies. That leads to a higher risk of off-label promotion.

Continuing a theme, prescription assistance programs and patient charities were addressed in relation to kickback risk. As stated, “any coordination between the charity and the company that shows the company is just trying to pay for its product being prescribed is a concern.” At least two current regulators supported the idea of self-disclosure and being honest about potential violations. “Being candid about where the compliance program has fallen short and the steps the company is going to take to correct the problem is important,” one of them said.

The group of former regulators, who mostly now serve as industry counsel, touched on exclusion as a risk. While it may be considered a rarely-sought tool, prosecutors have the threat of exclusion available to them as leverage. They also delved into the importance of data and reminded the audience that prosecutors are indeed scouring Sunshine Act data.

Patient Assistance Programs and Reimbursement Hub Services Compliance – A New Wave of Enforcement Actions

Attendees were provided five options for the first breakout sessions. The PAP and Hub Services panel was moderated by Jane Yoon of Paul Hastings LLP, and featured Peter Agnoletto of Sanofi, Sarah Whipple of Akebia Therapeutics, and Evan Bartell of KPMG LLP.

The discussion began with a polling question asking attendees where the management of donations sits in their organization. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Grants Committee were the top answers. The question led to a discussion over best practices, with one speaker warning, “you at least need to take commercial out of any involvement with donations.” Another admitted that not having a say in how the money is spent is hard concept for the business to grasp but the separation is important.

In the next polling question, attendees were asked if they monitor relationships and interactions with the foundations. 57% replied yes, and 28% said no. The panel reminded the audience that recent CIAs included the stipulation that those relationships are monitored.

Another question was focused on sales representatives and their involvement with donations. 48% of the audience said their reps are provided with talking points. Panelists suggested that if the sales reps are involved, compliance needs to understand how the information is being used. Clear guidelines need to be established and the reps need to be trained on those guidelines.

Off-label Communications – Deep Dive into the New Regulatory Updates and Actions

Angela Rodin of KPMG LLP and Laura Terrell of DLA Piper LLP presented the update on the status of off-label promotion trends and enforcement in the industry. Starting in 2012, enforcement shifted, as companies argued that off-label marketing is protected under the First Amendment and therefore cannot be prosecuted under misbranding provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). One presenter pointed out that while the government is no long pursuing off-label promotion as a stand-alone FDCA case, it continues to enforce False Claims Act (FCA) and Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) cases related to off-label promotion.

The bottom line is that even with strong support of free speech as a defense of off-label promotion, life sciences companies still need to be cautious. Clear and effective training is still needed.

Social Media – New Challenges and Updates

Elizabeth Kim of Loeb & Loeb LLP began the social media presentation with the underlying premise that while the digital landscape has changed dramatically over recent years, the legal landscape remains the same. Even on social media, promotional statements cannot be false or misleading and communications must be consistent with labeling and fair-balanced.

Social media is challenging, the presenter stressed, because it promotes a dialogue, which means the company has a lack of control over the conversation. But there are some steps companies can take that at least help with the control. The ability for readers to comment on posts can be turned off on Facebook. No such control exists with Twitter. In addition, key words can be flagged on Facebook to help monitor comments. Unfortunately, as the presenter noted, most companies lack the resources and personnel to properly monitor social media outlets.

She also mentioned that while companies have no obligation to correct third-party, independent comments, public, unsolicited requests for off-label information must be met with a limited response to contact Medical Affairs only. “If you do reply,” she said, “responses should be narrowly tailored. Watch out for getting into arguments.”

The FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) has issued 233 warning letters over the last ten years for omitting information, minimizing risk information, and overstating efficacy claims on social media. As existing platforms evolve, and new ones appear, the need for updated training to ensure your field-based employees are abiding by laws like the FCA and FDCA, as well as OIG guidance and the PhRMA Code, is critical.

Medical Affairs and MSL Oversight

The Medical Affairs panel included Tina Beamon, Alicia Temoche, and Stephanie Macholtz from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and Christine O’Connor-Fiore from Boehringer Ingelheim. The session began with the panelists establishing the general rules for how Medical Affairs may interact with healthcare professionals. Attendees were reminded that Medical Affairs can “do things R&D and Commercial cannot do” and “they are not limited to the label.” MSLs provide training to consultants for speaker programs but in the words of one panelist, “they are not Commercial and their integrity must be protected.”

The panelists admitted that the model for Medical Affairs and Commercial interactions has changed in reaction to marketplace changes. Medical Affairs should share insights as long as those insights are not off-label. “The walls between Commercial and Medical Affairs are coming down,” she said, “and a framework needs to be in place to protect the integrity of the MSL.”

Behavioral Compliance – Using Psychology to Make Programs More Effective

In one of the more unique sessions I’ve witnessed in years of attending compliance congresses, this session focused on behavioral compliance as a tool for generating more compliant outcomes. Yogesh Bahl, of AlixPartners, Kevin Ryan of Novo Nordisk, and Charlene Davis of Sun Pharmaceuticals provided conceptual concepts around the philosophy and practical application of behavioral compliance, using ideas known as “ethical nudges.”

The session began with the audience being asked to provide feedback on which of two compliance posters they thought were more effective. Essentially, one reflected a “rules-based” approach, and the other a “values-based” one. The values-based poster was the more popular choice and the content of the session supported that approach. The underlying premise behind the ethical nudges is that “people become ethical by doing ethical things.” Ethical nudges were essentially defined as “interactions based on the understanding of internal decision-making to promote desirable choices.” They included “read and affirm” documents presented right before a critical HCP interaction, visual cues like signage and posters, and micro-training launched strategically in conjunction with the need for ethical decision making.

Critical CIA and Enforcement Learnings – Zero-In on Emerging Trends to Elevate Compliance Safeguards      

The key points of this session were no surprise considering the oft-repeated focus of recent CIAs. BJ D’Avella of Deloitte and Touche LLP and Seth Lundy of King & Spalding LLP reminded attendees that “the focus of CIAs had shifted to interactions with patients, and more than ever, companies need to have a Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan (RAMP) in place.” That RAMP needs to include activity-based risks in addition to the usual product-based risks.

One of the presenters pointed out that the OIG is focusing on a “smaller number of CIAs that send messages to the industry.” He reminded the audience that CIAs are not laws, but they are a strong indicator of where to focus risk mitigation efforts.

Day 2

CCO Scenario Symposium – What Would You Do?

After a review of the sessions and events of Day 1 by Michael Shaw of GlaxoSmithKline, Day 2 began with this session, during which panelists were asked to participate in a mock case study of “Bad Pharma Co” and expand on lessons learned from this fictional company. Beth Levine of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Ashley Watson of Merck, Jerald Korn of Tesaro, and Keith McGahan of Spectrum Pharmaceuticals were asked to discuss the optimal organizational structure companies like the mock one presented in the case study. One presenter felt that having compliance as part of the legal department was a benefit because it gave her greater access to the CEO and others in the board of directors. Others felt that if compliance has that type of access, “it doesn’t matter where they sit.”

Other scenarios brought up in the case study led presenters to offer tips on dealing with compliance situations and those who raise the concerns. For example, one speaker emphasized that “no matter the source, the company’s obligation is to search for the facts of the case.” Speculation about the whistleblower and his or her credibility should not come into play. Also, “if someone sends information about a violation anonymously, it needs to be kept that way.”

Meeting of the Enforcement Minds

Heather Johnson from the Federal Trade Commission, Sally Molloy from the Department of Justice, and Eric Rubenstein from the OIG presented their suggestions for companies to keep their compliance programs attuned to current regulatory challenges. On the topic of bribery for example, one presenter suggested that “internal controls need to be robust and designed so that they are not siloed. It’s all bribery.” Another emphasized that recent trends point to Medicare and Medicaid fraud as a primary source for qui tam cases.

Beyond the Seven Elements of and Effective Compliance Program – What Else Are You Doing?

As a compliance training company, this session, featuring Jerald Korn of Tesaro, Chad Morin of bluebird bio, and Gregory Moss of Kadmon Holdings, held particularly interest for us. As one presenter stated, “creating a brand for the compliance department is a fun way to convey important information.” That holds true for the training as well, and we work with companies to create a continuous, engaging, and “fun” curriculum.

Another speaker noted the importance of being creative in the policies to help ensure compliant behavior, as well as the need to establish a collaborative culture. As stated, “you’re not trying to check the boxes on all seven elements, you’re trying to build a robust program that is effective.”

Existing and Emerging State Laws Governing Transparency Reporting

The state laws presentation, with Maggie Feltz and Michael Grandison of Purdue Pharma, and Brian Bohnenkamp of King & Spalding, LLP, began with tips for managing aggregate spend:

  • Train company-wide, not just the sales force
  • Train, retrain, then train some more
  • Monitor throughout the year

The panel pointed out that state laws fall into three categories; drug pricing transparency, aggregate spend laws, and sales representative licensing and reporting laws. The landscape across all three changes quickly and they expect 2018 to be as busy as 2017.

In recent state-related news, Maryland’s law was found to be unconstitutional and according to one panelist, that “has quieted some of what other states have been considering.” Oregon was brought up as the most challenging law since it “requires documentation to support your documents.” In New Jersey, where the law was passed on the last day of the outgoing administration, one speaker mentioned that Governor Murphy’s team is considering major changes. On the drug pricing front, the panel expects two or three more laws to be implemented.

Obviously, the state law landscape is confusing and changes are happening at a dizzying rate. As one speaker emphasized, diligence, and continuous training is necessary to “ensure every decision-maker is aware of new requirements.”

Maximization of Compliance Resources

I close with what may have been the best session of the entire conference! (okay, I may be a bit biased since this panel included my colleague, and head of PharmaCertify, Dan O’Connor.) Dan was joined by Chad Morin of bluebird bio and Laurie Kathleen Durousseau of Rigel Pharmaceuticals. The session focused on how compliance professionals can best focus their time and energy toward those activities that are most critical during the various growth stages of a life science company from pre-clinical to established.

Starting with a quick poll of the audience, the panel first determined the average size and stage of companies represented. Most of the audience members were an “n of 1” compliance department in a company with 200 or fewer employees that is in the “Clinical” or “First Product” stage. The panel then shared their suggestions for which compliance-related activities to prioritize during each growth stage. In the “first product” stage for example, aggregate spend transparency reporting; government price reporting; specialized training by function; and patient support program design were discussed, among other topics.

The panelists also covered the need for small departments to partner with the business, as well as other departments, to spread the resource load and accomplish the objectives of each stage. For any compliance department challenged with limited resources and personnel, it was a worthwhile thirty minutes of learning. If you missed the conference, Dan would be happy to provide his perspective on the topic. Feel free to contact him at doconnor@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Summary

The world of life sciences compliance is changing, and so is CBI’s Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress. This year’s conference presented a compelling balance of traditional content that newcomers to the field should find valuable as a base of knowledge, with enough updates on key areas of regulatory focus (off-label, patient assistance programs, state laws, etc.) to keep the seasoned compliance professionals in the audience satisfied with agenda. It also offers industry professionals a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with their peers and hear best practices for strengthening their compliance cultures and reducing risk. I highly recommend the conference next year for chief compliance officers, specialists, managers, and anyone working in the life sciences compliance training industry. Kudos to CBI and all the presenters!

Thanks for reading.

Sean Murphy
Editor, PharmaCertify Compliance Training Insights Blog

A Preview of the 15th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress!

The 15th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress is only a week away and the conference agenda offers a new twist on the standard array of presentations by industry leaders and government regulators. Here are some of the presentations and panel sessions the PharmaCertify™ team is looking forward to:

Day 1: Tuesday, April 24

CCO Exchange
Adapting and Evolving Compliance Programs in Support of Innovation

Following the chairman’s opening remarks, and the “luminary address” that kicks off the conference, this panel session features leading industry representatives, including Maggie Feltz of Purdue Pharma and Sujata Dayal of Johnson & Johnson. The title is intriguing and I look forward to hearing the panelists discuss how they have adapted their programs, and their training curriculum, to take advantage of advances in technology and new concepts like microlearning and continuous learning.

Stakeholder Spotlight
Evaluation of Compliance Programs from the Internal Customer Perspective

The focus on “internal customer perspective” in this session caught my eye. It’s a stakeholder group that is not often discussed at conferences, and I’m curious to hear how the presenters define internal customers and the parameters and tools used tools for evaluation.

Highly-Acclaimed U.S. Healthcare Fraud and Enforcement Panel
Past and Present Prosecutor Parley 

The description of this unique session promises a “point/counterpoint” approach to the subject matter, with current and former prosecutors and defense attorneys presenting their views on recent settlements and on-going investigations. Typically, the two sides present in separate sessions, so this joint “parlay” approach should prove to be engaging and revealing.

Patient Assistant Programs (PAPs) and Reimbursement Hub Services Compliance
A New Wave of Enforcement Actions

The latter part of the title makes this session so compelling and the “wave of enforcement actions” has led to several of our clients asking about training on PAPs and Reimbursement Services compliance (look for that addition to our curriculum of customizable off-the-shelf compliance modules in the near future). I am curious to hear how the industry representatives on the panel are dealing with the need for training considering the growing regulatory focus.

Master Class Series 3
Behavioral Compliance – Using Behavioral Psychology to Make Compliance Programs More Effective

This one is on the top of my list! After spending over ten years in the life sciences compliance training space, I recognize the key to flattening the proverbial “forgetting curve” is the utilization of modern and continuous learning tools and techniques built on advances in behavioral psychology and the science of learning. Look for me in the front row!

Day 2: Wednesday, April 25

Patient Support Programs Track
All Three Sessions

Continuing the focus on Patient Assistant Programs and Reimbursement Hubs covered in one session on Day 1, this track features three sessions that should shed light on a burgeoning area of enforcement: Evolving Role and Landscape of Patient Advocacy in Life Sciences; Mitigate Risk Within Hub Operations; and Legal Nuances and Limitations of Drug Copayment Offset Programs.

Small to Mid-Sized Bio/Pharma Working Group Track
Beyond the Seven Elements of An Effective Compliance Program – What Else Are You Doing?  

The definition of an effective compliance program has evolved well past the point of simply covering the seven elements first established by the OIG years ago. From a training standpoint, modern continuous learning techniques and tools have the potential to increase the retention of key compliance concepts and further reduce risk. I am curious to know what strategies the four industry professionals featured in this session have integrated into their programs to make it even stronger.

Small to Mid-Sized Bio/Pharma Working Group Track
Maximization of Compliance Resources

I may be a little biased on this one since my colleague, Dan O’Connor, will be joined by Chad Morin of bluebird bio and Laurie Kathleen Durousseau of Rigel Pharmaceuticals to discuss strategies for building and maintaining a strong compliance program when resources are at a minimum due to staffing and budgetary constraints.

Transparency and Open Payments Track
CMS Transparency and Open Payments Update
Existing and Emerging State Laws Governing Transparency Reporting
      

With transparency being such a regulatory focus and risk area, I anticipate a large and rapt audience for the presentation by Robin Usi, Director for the Division of Data and Informatics at CMS. In addition, the ever-changing list of states updating their existing transparency laws, as well as those launching new regulations (we see you New Jersey), moves the second session high on our attendance sheet.

Compliance Café and Community Exchange

Kudos to CBI and the panelists involved for this novel and clever way of closing out the conference! This collaborative session offers a great opportunity for attendees to collaborate with their peers and exchange ideas and suggestions from what they heard throughout the conference, and most-importantly, “align learnings and develop next-level strategies to take back to the office.” Well done.

The 15th Annual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress promises a plethora of opportunities to catch up on the latest in regulatory and enforcement news, as well as best practices for building and strengthening an effective compliance program. We hope you’ll take a few minutes in between sessions to visit the PharmaCertify Booth in the Exhibit Hall to say hello and 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.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you in Washington!

Sean Murphy
Product and Marketing Manager
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions