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New drugmaker code deprives docs of football, lunch for 2

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Doctors can still get free samples of medicines, but not football tickets or lunch for their spouses, under a revised code of conduct drafted by a global drug industry trade group.

The new rules clarify the differences between gifts, promotional aids and items such as anatomical models that can be used in medical practice, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations said Wednesday. The federation’s member companies will be required to adopt the new guidelines and provide related training to their 1.3 million employees, the group said.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. is a member of the federation.

The code may help curb legal expenses related to marketing, particularly in the United States, where GlaxoSmithKline Plc last year agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations and other matters.

Lilly and Pfizer Inc.each paid more than $1 billion to settle marketing allegations in 2009. Novartis AG and AstraZeneca Plc are among drugmakers that in the past year have disclosed U.S. subpoenas seeking information on the selling of certain products.

“The new code provides a framework for the industry to act with integrity and build trust,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer David Brennan, the federation’s president, said in the statement. “This is not about doing the easy thing, but the right thing.”

Free samples of medicines may be given to doctors who are authorized to prescribe them to patients, the federation said in the code. Companies should avoid extravagant venues for meetings, be transparent in promotional materials, and shouldn’t offer items for the personal benefit of a doctor or nurse, such as gift certificates or concert tickets, according to the guidelines.

“As a general rule, the hospitality provided must not exceed what participants would normally be prepared to pay for themselves,” the federation said in the code. “Companies should not pay any costs associated with individuals accompanying invited health-care professionals.”

The rules don’t address direct-to-consumer advertising, pricing or other trade terms for supplying wholesalers and other commercial customers, or promotion of medical devices, the federation said. Drugmakers that fund patient advocacy groups shouldn’t insist on being the sole sponsor of such an organization, and should outline in writing the nature of the financial support, according to the code.

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  • Old Story - New Twist
    If this latest revelation regarding pharmaceutical companies buying business via gifts, trips, sporting event tickets, and rebates comes as a surprise to the general public, brace yourself it gets worse. There are websites that keep track, via Freedom of Information, of funds that flow from pharmaceutical and medical devices companies into the pockets of physicians. Millions of dollars are passed through to doctors, all in exchange for the doctor either prescribing the company's products, or surgeons and cardiologists using the company's devices. The best example I have found is the fact that every major pharmaceutical product can be purchased in any foreign country for 25% to 40% less than what Americans pay for the same products here. Perhaps these latest announcements will start to impact the pricing of pharmaceuticals, but I really doubt it.

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