EFPIA, the European pharmaceutical industry association, says it has upgraded its code on the promotion of prescription-only medicines in order to “further enhance good governance and transparency”.

The code, which was first adopted in 1992 and revised in 2004, covers activities such as advertising in medical publications, contacts with sales representatives and the supply of samples, gifts and hospitality. For example, the latter section states that hospitality shall not include sponsoring or organising entertainment (eg sporting or leisure) events and companies “should avoid using venues that are ‘renowned’ for their entertainment facilities or are ‘extravagant’.”

The upgraded code addresses “newly identified challenges” such as the appropriate conditions surrounding non-interventional studies and consulting arrangements between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. Rules have also been tightened over free samples and transparency increased on donations or grants to research organisations.

EFPIA president and head of Bayer HealthCare, Arthur Higgins, said that information about new treatments “is essential for the medical community if they are to make the right therapeutic decisions for each patient” but equally important “is the need to ensure that all our interactions with healthcare professionals reflect the highest ethical standards”. The upgraded code will be effective across Europe at the latest by July 1, 2008.

Patient organisation code of practice too
EFPIA also noted that it has adopted a code of practice on the relationships between drugmakers and patient organisations, an initiative which it says “demonstrates the industry’s resolve to tighten up ethical standards and enhance transparency through self-regulation”.

It sets out standards in, among other areas, non-promotion, diversified funding of patient organisations, “use of patient group logos, editorial control and appropriate hospitality” All EFPIA’s members “will have to comply with a set of fundamental rules,” said Mr Higgins, and “failure to comply will be sanctioned”.