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, August 25, 2016

Here’s the tune we’re whistling this week: a California state senator pulls his own proposed transparency bill; an analysis of the FDA user fee programs yields interesting information; former Insys employees in court; FCPA woes at Orthofix International; and a new way for New Jersey residents to learn how much their docs received from the industry.

Summer is coming to a close all too quickly, but you still have a few weeks to cruise the boulevard, roll down the windows and belt out that favorite song at the top of your lungs. Sadly, these anthems tend to disappear at the first hint of cool temperatures, so dance on whilst you can! While you pump up the volume on your music delivery apparatus of choice, we’ll fire up a jam of own, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

It’s been a Cruel Summer for a California state legislator. The state senator who proposed a drug pricing transparency bill for the state has pulled the bill from consideration, saying amendments to the bill “made it more difficult for us to accomplish our fundamental goal.”

Could a recent analysis of FDA user fees stir up some Bad Blood? The analysis of FDA user fees showed that the FDA has collected over seven billion dollars in fees since 1992. These fees account for a large percentage, in some cases the majority, of funding for FDA review programs, and there is nearly $300 million dollars in unused user fees being carried by the FDA.

An interactive map shows the Blurred Lines between New Jersey physicians and the pharmaceutical industry. A state news website created an interactive map that provides details of physician and hospital payments from the pharmaceutical industry. Users search by zip code, and see payment details for hospitals and physicians in the area. The site also has an alphabetical listing of physicians and hospitals receiving payments. Data for the site was sourced from the Open Payments website.

Orthofix International allegedly got in the Danger Zone regarding improper payments made by its Brazilian subsidiary. In a recent regulatory filing, Orthofix International registered a charge of $4.6 million to settle potential FCPA charges. The company reported the potential violation to the DOJ and SEC in 2013, and has been cooperating with both agencies to resolve the matter.

If Life is a Highway, a pair of former Insys employees may be about to head down a bumpy road. A former district sales manager and former sales representative recently pleaded not guilty to charges they provided kickbacks to doctors in exchange for prescribing the company’s fentanyl drug. The two are accused of paying speaker fees to doctors for events that were held at upscale Manhattan restaurants and were social, rather than educational, in nature.

With that, it’s time for us to boogie on out of here. We hope to see you back on the dance floor for the next edition of the Compliance News in Review. Until then, stay cool, keep the summertime jams going, and stay compliant.

News in Review, June 15, 2016

Federal investigators subpoena information related to charitable organizations from three companies, Congress proposes an amendment to the FDCA, the head of the FDA speaks on off-label information, and New Hampshire’s Attorney General targets the manufacturer of a popular painkiller.

The temperatures are rising well past 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that can only mean one thing…time to hit the beach! Pack up the station wagon, minivan, or whatever mode of transportation best accommodates your gear and head to the sand and surf for some fun and relief from the heat! Of course, the standard precautions and warnings are in order: use plenty of sunscreen; mind the flags regarding ocean conditions; and above all, be wary of teens resembling Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello bursting into fits of random dancing and singing (now there’s a dated reference for you). Of course, you’ll need plenty of reading material before you drift off into a coconut oil scented daydream. So after you finish the latest from Mary Higgins Clarke or that true crime tome, please enjoy the next best beach read…this edition of the Compliance New in Review.

The waves of compliance just got slightly chopping for a trio of drug manufacturers. Three companies, Gilead, Jazz and Biogen, received subpoenas from federal investigators for information related to their relationships with charitable organizations that help patients with medication costs. Charities receiving support from industry companies claim those companies have no say or influence on which patients they help or what drugs are covered. The government’s concern centers on whether the contributions are essentially illegal kickbacks.

Oh sunny day – a panel of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee proposed an amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act that would allow companies more leeway in sharing truthful off-label information. The proposed amendment would limit the definition of intended use to the manufacturer’s “objective intent,” and allow for the dissemination of materials for scientific exchange, if the information in the materials is backed by scientific evidence. The panel expressed concern about the need for doctors to be kept abreast of the latest medical information, and frustration at the lack of movement by the FDA on guidance related to the dissemination of off-label information.

The head of the FDA also rode the off-label promotion wave when he spoke at the BIO International Convention. In his remarks, Robert Califf noted that supportable information worth sharing should be included on the product’s label, and he questioned why companies would not include useful information on the label or in the prescribing information. Califf also encouraged the industry to embrace social media, saying, “the best way to develop products in the future is likely going to involve a lot of people with diseases to have a handle on what their needs are, what their expectations are, and what their risk tolerance may be.”

As expected, Vermont was first in the water with a law requiring transparency of drug pricing. State officials will identify 15 drugs for which they want information about the reasons for price increases. The manufacturers of those drugs will have to submit information to justify the price increases.

New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has filed suit against Purdue over the company’s refusal to provide documents related to the marketing of OxyContin. The AG’s office claims the company is providing HCPs with misleading information regarding the product. The suit claims the company touts the drug lasts for 12 hours, and it also does not appropriately address end-of-dose failure. The AG also claims the company downplays the risks associated with addiction. Purdue says it is more than willing to cooperate with the investigation, provided the AG’s office does not share any documentation with private attorneys. The company believes a financial conflict of interest exists with the firm retained to assist in the investigation, and it should not be compelled to turn over information while a court case is pending.

A report from Reuters questions the independence of firms hired by companies under a CIA to serve as an Independent Review Organization (IRO). Unlike other agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services does not prohibit companies under a CIA from hiring an IRO with which they have an existing relationship. Critics claim those arrangements represent a conflict of interest. A representative of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) said she has not witnessed any issues with these arrangements. Spokespersons for various industry companies said they disclose all their business relationships to the OIG in advance.

The seas have also been choppy for Salix Pharmaceuticals recently. The company agreed to pay $54 million to settle allegations it provided kickbacks to physicians for prescribing its products. According to the DOJ, the company admitted to paying doctors to be speakers for the company as an inducement for prescribing its products. The government claims the programs at which the doctors spoke were largely social in nature and provided little or no information related to a product. In addition to resolving the federal case, the settlement will resolve several related state fraud cases.

That’s all for this edition of the News in Review. Until next time, we wish you safe sailing and calm compliance waters!

CBI’s 9th Annual Forum on Transparency and Aggregate Spend: A Review

CBI’s recent Forum on Transparency and Aggregate Spend covered a variety of topics affecting the collection and reporting of aggregate spend data. The conference featured speakers from industry, government agencies, and service providers sharing lessons learned and best practices related to aggregate spend collection and data disclosure.

After a day of pre-conference workshops, the main conference began on Day Two, and it started with a bang. The keynote address, An Update on Open Payments Reporting, was delivered by Doug Brown, CMS Group Director, Data Sharing and Partnership Group, Center for Program Integrity. Mr. Brown shared statistics on the data submitted for the 2014 reporting year. 11.4 million records were received, covering 600,000 individual physicians. In a vast improvement over the previous year, 98% of submitted records were accepted. Brown attributed this improvement to the introduction of the validated physicians list (VPL) and better data matching. An analysis of rejected records is underway, and CMS is looking for ways to improve the taxonomies associated with covered recipients.

During the review and dispute period, CMS received 30,000 disputes on 25,000 unique records. The disputes were evenly distributed among the covered recipient type, with physicians representing 35% of disputes, teaching hospitals 38% and principal investigators 27%. According to Brown, disputes were evenly split between the general and research payments reports. Very few disputes were lodged against payments reported on the ownership report. The median value of total payments is 4.5 times greater for registered physicians versus unregistered physicians.

Brown also shared information regarding the anticipated enhancements to the Open Payments system. The restrictions around special characters in the text fields will be removed (cue the heavenly choir). CMS is also working to better facilitate the review and dispute process. According to Brown, many of the disputes were not true disputes, but could better be classified as inquiries. CMS is working to provide a method for distinguishing between a payment inquiry and a payment dispute. The agency is also working to enhance the ability for manufacturers to download their data from the site, regardless of the file size, and it hopes to extend this capability to covered recipients as well.

Brown reminded the group that new de minimums payment information and the list of teaching hospitals will be released on October 1st. CMS is planning more Q&A teleconferences in the future. Speaking of which, during the Q&A period following the presentation, Brown was asked about having a moderator on teleconferences to alleviate the “wild west” that currently exists when the call opens up for participant questions. He said that was something he would absolutely consider, but he prefers the conversational style of the current format.

William Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Jacob Elberg, Chief, Healthcare and Government Fraud Unit, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, also presented on behalf of the government. They discussed current trends in government enforcement. Mr. Killian said emerging enforcement trends in his and other offices involved fraud related to Medicare Part D, lab services, hospital services and hospice care. He noted that the civil and criminal prosecutors are often involved in parallel prosecutions. Mr. Elberg referenced a continuing trend in his office involving the prosecution of kickback cases. He said those cases are typically at the individual practitioner level, and occur locally or globally. Cases that involve activities outside the U.S. can implicate the FCPA and his office shares information with FCPA fraud units. Elberg also discussed other continuing trends involving FDCA prosecutions, including those involving off-label promotion and cGMP violations.

Rounding out the “law-focused” presentations for the day was a presentation about state laws by Brian Bohnenkamp of King & Spalding. Mr. Bohnenkamp led off by discussing federal pre-emption and how it relates to state reporting. He noted that there are times where the reportable items under federal law are not reportable under state law (and vice versa), and reminded the audience of the criteria for pre-emption under the Sunshine Act. He suggested that decisions on whether pre-emption should be applied to a particular payment should be made on a case-by-case basis. He also noted that they are seeing more companies take advantage of federal pre-emption in reporting under state laws, and used the example that a number of companies did not have anything to report under Minnesota’s law due to that pre-emption. Bohnenkemp also highlighted the recent exemption in D.C.’s detailer licensing requirement for individuals who are involved in detailing for “less than 30 consecutive days per calendar year,” and he reviewed prescription drug pricing transparency proposals in a handful of states – one example being Massachusetts, which still had not provided guidance about quarterly meal reports reported under that state’s law.

The majority of the rest of the Day Two sessions focused on data and processes directly related to interacting with the Open Payments system. Sessions and panel discussions covered topics such as leveraging the data within the organization; using data to minimize compliance risk; and remediating data and the data attestation in Open Payments. Two key themes emerged: 1. Clean data is key (the garbage in garbage out idea) and 2. Communication with the organization and those outside the organization (your vendors and physicians) about the data is critical.

A number of speakers and panelists in the sessions stressed the importance of consistency in names, addresses, and format for physician ID numbers across the various in-house and vendor systems that house spend data. A periodic review of the data is an important best practice to deal with any issues along the way. Most panelists and speakers felt that a quarterly review was an achievable goal. More frequent reviews would be ideal, but could prove a challenge for companies with fewer resources. In addition, companies should engage the business early and often about what the data reveals and how that information can be leveraged to reduce risk and impact sales. Communication with physicians in advance of the CMS review and dispute period was recommended. This does not necessarily mean disclosing all the data, nor pre-disclosing to every physician about whom you have data. Setting a minimum TOV threshold for pre-disclosure, or pre-disclosing only to select KOLs were suggested as means of making the pre-disclosure beneficial to both the physician and the company.

Speaking of physicians, Day Two included a panel discussion moderated by PhRMA Executive Vice President and General Counsel, John Murphy, on the physician’s perspective of Open Payments. Panelists included Dr. Maya Babu of the Mayo Clinic and AMA Board of Trustees member, and Dr. David Barbe, former Chair and current member of the AMA Board of Trustees. The panelists said the main concerns of physicians are centered on the potential for bad data being presented to public, the ability for physicians to access the data, the implications of the data, and the impact the Open Payments program will have on relationships with the industry. While there have been improvements in the registration process, there are still issues with access, specifically, problems with particular browsers being able to access the site. The panelists felt strongly that being able to access the data through a site set up by the manufacturer would be helpful, or even having a sales rep provide the data personally.

The United States certainly hasn’t cornered the market on physician spend transparency. Global transparency was addressed on Day Two, predominately in a discussion group at the end of the day. On Day Three an entire morning track was dedicated to issues related to global transparency. The featured presentation (and highlight of the conference) was an address by Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director of Communication for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

Mr. Powrie-Smith briefly covered the nuts and bolts of the EFPIA Disclosure Code before turning to a discussion of transparency in general. The industry believes transparency is about demonstrating that there is value in the collaboration between industry and healthcare professionals/organizations, which ultimately delivers better patient care. However, being transparent is not without its challenges. Primarily, with the exception of countries, such as France, where there are physician spend disclosure laws, managing transparency efforts in face of the EU privacy laws is challenging. The EFPIA Disclosure Code requires the disclosure of certain transfers of value at the individual practitioner level, and requires that disclosure to be made available to the public. In order to meet these requirements, companies must obtain consent from physicians to disclose private information about them. Further complicating the matter is that even if consent is given, it can be revoked at any time.

Mr. Powrie-Smith said EFPIA is currently conducting a survey regarding the industry stance on obtaining the necessary consents for disclosure of transfers of value at the individual level. Thus far, EFPIA has seen a large variance in the rate of consent across Europe. A culture shift is necessary to address the variance and the industry must take a leadership role in that shift.

The concept of gaining and managing consent was emphasized in other presentations as well. Representatives from BMI Systems shared data on the rates of consent presented by various pharmaceutical industry trade organizations at an EFPIA meeting in May. In Germany, the consent rate was 50-55%, and the industry trade organization in the country said that was about what they expected for the first year. Poland’s trade organization noted in March they were at a 20% consent rate, and Spain’s trade organization reports only a 10% consent rate. Representatives from IMS Health dug into issues with gaining consent as well. They discussed how codes and laws differed from country to country, specifically regarding the timelines for obtaining consent (e.g., at time of contract, or at any time during the reporting period); the scope of the consent (e.g., per activity type, per contract); from whom consent is required (e.g., HCPs or HCOs); and required consent documentation (paper or digital).

The 9th Annual Forum on Aggregate Spend and Transparency offered useful information for any attendee responsible for data collection, report submission, or analytics inside or outside the U.S. Beyond the nuts and bolts of aggregate spend, the presentations focused on the value of the data for the organization and the physician. Data provides insight for commercial teams and their programs, and the compliance risks for the company. Most importantly, as communicated by Andrew Powrie-Smith, transparency around spend data is important, because it reveals the benefits of the industry/HCP relationship to patients, payers and the public.

 

Compliance News in Review, July 10, 2015

The government targets Novartis for False Claims violations, pharmaceutical companies map out a plan to keep medication flowing into Greece throughout the crisis, and the industry as a whole ponders the impact of the CMS release of 2014 transparency data.

The days are long and lazy – it’s time for summer vacation! From the beach, to the mountains to foreign destinations, the News in Review staff is finalizing plans for summer R&R. Rest assured though, we are still hard at work keeping up with all the compliance news fit to blog, starting with this sun splashed edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The Justice Department and 11 states are putting a dent in the Novartis vacation account with a $3.4 billion charge for damages and fines in a False Claims Act case involving kickbacks to pharmacies. According to prosecutors, the company offered rebate and discount programs to pharmacies in exchange for increased prescriptions of two drugs. Novartis disputes the allegations and says it will continue to defend itself. A trial has been set for November.

Pharma companies are mapping out a plan to keep medication rolling into Greece. According to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), the complexity and fragmented nature of the Greek medicine supply chain makes the flow of medication vulnerable. Pfizer, Roche and Novartis said they have plans to ease any shortages during the crisis, and AstraZeneca and GSK have both said they are drawing up contingency plans to keep medicines in supply.

CMS and agg spend folks are probably ready for a break in their routine now that the 2014 Open Payments data has been published. The data shows that companies paid physicians almost $6.5 billion for the year, with over 11 million transactions reported. Research payments topped the list with over $3 billion paid, there were $2.5 billion in general payments and $700K was reported on the ownership reports. CMS was able to validate close to 99% of records submitted to the system, which is a vast improvement over the 2013 data. As was the case in 2014, the majority of the reported payments were small. Sixty-six percent were for payments of less than $20. Research and royalty payments represented the largest dollar amounts.

Once the Open Payments data was released, the numbers quickly found their way into the media. The focus on payments to physician and the influence those payments have on prescribing decisions and healthcare at large is at an all-time high. That level of scrutiny highlights the need for training on the Sunshine Act and Open Payments – especially for those interacting with HCPs. While much of the work related to the reporting requirements is a “back office” function, those interacting with HCPs are often the first to hear concerns from the field and they need to be prepared.

In addition, the public release of the data opens companies to examination of their business practices from whistleblowers and enforcement agencies. Critical evaluation of training is important. Are all the appropriate audiences being covered? Is the training up to date? Is a refresher required? Regular audits of training curriculums and plans are key to reducing the risk of questionable payments, and could spare the company expensive costs down the road.

Have a great weekend!

Looking Ahead: CBI’s 9th Annual Forum on Transparency and Aggregate Spend

The release of the first full year of data under the Open Payments Program is just around the corner, which naturally means transparency and aggregate spend are top of mind these days. Will the data be released without any issues? How will the media react?

With aggregate spend on the mind, the NXLevel Solutions PharmaCertify™ team is looking with interest at the conference agenda for CBI’s 9th Annual Forum on Transparency and Aggregate Spend. We’ve selected a few sessions of particular interest.

Here’s what caught our attention:

Strategies to Reduce Compliance Risks and Optimize Commercial Programs Using Transparency Analytics – Obviously, companies are collecting mass amounts of data to comply with transparency requirements here and abroad. Analyzing the data to identify potential compliance risks is a great way to help fine tune training as well. For example, such an analysis may reveal areas where more in depth training is needed, or it may identify a new audience that needs training on a particular topic. We’ll be interested to hear how training fits into the agenda for this session.

State Disclosure Laws – Preemption, Enforcement and Continued Reporting – Just when we thought the Sunshine Act would clarify state reporting requirements, more changes have arrived in our in box; the latest requiring the reporting of payments to nurse practitioners in a couple of states. This session looks to be a great opportunity to learn the latest in state requirements, and to hear how those states plan to utilize the federal data.

HCP Perspectives on Transparency – Impact and Opportunities Moving Forward – Applicable Manufacturers are not the only ones affected by the Open Payments Program and other transparency initiatives. With little to no voice in the matter, healthcare professionals bear the brunt of having information about them exposed to the public. Understanding HCPs’ transparency concerns is a critical step in training those who interact with HCPs.

The Global Transparency track, which includes a session on Building a Global Transparency Solutions Center, is dedicated to the transparency requirements of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). With reporting beginning next year, EFPIA requirements are no doubt a hot topic, but EFPIA’s requirements aren’t the only ones of concern outside the U.S. Understanding the requirements of each code and law and finding commonalities is important when building the systems to manage the data, and building effective training around these requirements. Can training be repurposed from one jurisdiction to another? What “lessons learned” from one location can be applied as more associations and countries implement transparency requirements?

In between conference sessions, we invite you to stop by the PharmaCertify™ booth to discuss your global transparency training challenges in more detail. We’ll be providing demos of our TOV Disclosure Portal™, an exciting new product that gives your company the opportunity to roll out transparency payment data to your partner HCPs for their review and approval before it is submitted to CMS. When disputes are resolved early, HCPs are more confident in the accuracy of the data, and the company/HCP relationship is enhanced. And, if you have to miss this year’s conference, contact Sean Murphy at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Stay compliant and we’ll see you in August!

Compliance News in Review, June 16, 2015

Dinosaurs roamed the earth again (at least in the land of movie theaters), over the weekend, with the release of the summer’s first big blockbuster, Jurassic World. You’d think after three films, the characters would have learned not to fool with Mother Nature. Apparently not, and considering the $200+ million the film racked up at the box office, we are not tired of watching them make those same mistakes.

It may not involve death, destruction and extinct creatures, but we have our own epic tale to tell. Break out the popcorn and 3D glasses, and silence your phones please. It’s time for this week’s feature presentation – the Compliance News in Review.

Transparency International is undertaking a project of Giganotosaurus proportions. At the International Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress and Best Practices Forum, Executive Director Robert Barrington spoke to attendees about corruption in the healthcare sector and an initiative underway to evaluate corruption in the pharmaceutical industry specifically. The project will focus on five key areas: procurement and distribution, manufacturing, marketing practices, product registration, and research and development. Barrington noted that the industry should prepare for more scrutiny, with patients demanding to know why increased spending has not led to an improvement in the quality of healthcare.

Public Citizen has accused the FDA of improperly expanding the original approved use of a sleep disorder drug, and has filed a petition with the agency to have the label changed. According to the organization, the drug was initially approved for use in treating the disorder, Non-24, in blind patients, however the drug’s label does not specify the patient population. Public Citizen says this opens the door to the drug being used for other sleep disorders with patients that are not blind. Following the initial approval, the FDA did send the manufacturer a second approval letter which stated a mistake was made and the drug was approved for treatment of Non-24 in general. The second letter notes that the condition is experienced almost exclusively by those who are blind.

Could this be another “blockbuster” decision by the FDA? The FDA sent a letter to Amarin Pharmaceuticals and the court in response to Amarin’s lawsuit against the agency for violating its free speech rights. The company would like to share study information showing its drug reduces the risk of heart attack when taken in conjunction with a statin, which is not an approved use. In its response to the lawsuit, the FDA says it does not have concerns with most of the information the company wanted to share, and it does not consider the sharing of that information to be false or misleading. The letter also reminded the company that new guidelines for sharing off-label information are forthcoming.

In our opinion, the letter from the FDA to Amarin is certainly not an invitation for pharmaceutical and medical device companies to start sharing information about unapproved uses of their products. Situations like this, as well decisions like the Caronia case, may lead some to think the rules have changed, when in fact they have not. Training and communication efforts need to emphasize that the laws and regulations remain the same. Promotional statements still need to be truthful, accurate, not misleading and balanced.

The message should be clear – only company approved studies and statements may be shared, and done so in the way described by the company. The way in which companies play the game may be evolving, but the rules of the game remain the same. Playing within those rules benefits all stakeholders, including the company, and most importantly, the patient.

Have a great week everyone!