PhRMA Approves Guidelines on Sales Practices to Doctors
The executive committee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America yesterday unanimously approved voluntary guidelines that will restrict many of the "controversial" sales practices that drug companies use to target doctors, the Wall Street Journal reports. The guidelines, which will take effect July 1, will place restrictions on meals that drug industry sales representatives may purchase for doctors and will limit the price of gifts to doctors to less than $100. In addition, the guidelines will prohibit the purchase of "entertainment for its own sake" -- such as tickets to sports events and films or golf outings -- as gifts for doctors. The guidelines also will ban "token consulting arrangements that commonly disguise financial inducements to lure doctors to meetings," the Journal reports. PhRMA has not established "enforcement mechanisms" to ensure that members adhere to the guidelines, but the Journal reports that "participating companies are expected to be vigilant in monitoring their competitors." According to the Journal, PhRMA approved the guidelines to help end an "entertainment arms race" in the drug industry that has "embarrassed some companies and caused sales budgets to balloon." PhRMA also hopes the move will "save face for the industry" and "stave off" federal regulation. A dozen large drug companies -- including Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. -- have agreed to the guidelines, but the Journal reports that "it remains to be seen if the ... code will hold" (Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 4/19).