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Pharma’s international code of conduct extended

Published on 01/03/12 at 06:44pm
AZ's David Brennan says this is about 'doing the right thing'

Pharma companies must adhere to a new stronger code of practice, no matter where they are in the world.

The industry’s global self-regulation body has launched a new code aimed at ensuring good ethical standards, including relationships with doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) says its Code of Practice has now been expanded to cover all interactions with healthcare professionals, medical institutions, and patient organisations.

However the IFPMA says its Code will only come into play in territories where no national code has been adopted, or when a company is not a member of that country’s national association.

But as with many national codes of practice, sanctions against companies are not onerous; if a company is found in breach of the IFPMA Code, it has 10 working days to confirm it has complied with the IFPMA’s ruling ('the Compliance Statement').

As a minimum, a company will be asked to confirm the activity or use of the material is discontinued and that all possible steps will be taken to avoid a similar breach of the Code in the future.

The need for the updated code reflects the increasing globalisation of the pharma industry, which is expanding strongly in emerging markets, some of which do not have well-established codes of practice.

One such case is in Serbia, where AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Actavis are all currently facing charges of having made improper payments to doctors in the country.

The stricter tone adopted by the IFPMA also reflects a crackdown in the US, where numerous companies have paid multi-million dollar fines, often for insurance fraud or off-label marketing. 

The US government is also enforcing more strictly its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for US companies and foreign firms listed on US stock markets to bribe government officials in foreign countries.

The Code

The updated Code includes high-level guiding principles for practice, a requirement for member companies to train all employees, a clear distinction between gifts, promotional aids and items of medical utility, guidance for supporting continuing medical education, a provision on disclosure of clinical trials information, and guidance for filing complaints.

The Code continues to prohibit pre-approval promotional activities for pharmaceutical products, company-sponsored entertainment at events, and providing or offering personal gifts to healthcare professionals.

“The new Code provides a framework for the industry to act with integrity and build trust, as we work towards improving patient heath,” says IFPMA president and AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan. “This is not about doing the easy thing, but the right thing.”

All IFPMA members have to adopt and implement the Code wherever they operate. The IFPMA says it also calls on on physicians, nurses, and other companies to adherence to equally high standards of practice.

“The expansion of this Code of Practice is welcome and necessary to bring greater clarity to the ethical standards that should be adhered to”, said Durhane Wong-Rieger, chair, International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO).

“The public must have trust and confidence in all healthcare decision-making and IAPO welcomes IFPMA’s commitment to promote appropriate standards and will observe closely how well these are implemented and followed globally.”

Andrew McConaghie

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