The new Bribery Act makes UK pharma companies legally responsible for any kickbacks their reps or distributors may offer to health officials anywhere in the world. Maxine Vaccine asks whether UK politicians who point the finger at traders can really be serious.
Compliance is the new CRM. In an era of globalised pharmaceutical trading, the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act have sent a shock wave of pure terror through the industry. Basically, what the new legislation means is that a company is responsible what anyone acting on its behalf, even under contract, may do to advance its business. A local sales team or freelance distributor on the other side of the world might treat a village doctor to a bottle of whisky in return for a commission – and a biotech company in Cradley Heath might find itself fined out of existence. It’s scary.
According to a new Cegedim report 94% of life science companies now enforce corporate standards for spending on HCPs, while over half have a project team to address compliance issues. However, Cegedim warns that good intentions are not enough: without robust surveillance and reporting systems, those unmarked envelopes may slip through the cracks.
Closer to home, the ABPI Code of Conduct imposes very strict limits on the industry’s freebies and favours to its customers. Marcus Brigstocke raised some nervous laughter at last week’s Pf Awards by suggesting that pharma reps might moonlight as biro salesmen. The rules on hospitality threaten drug reps with wholesale loss of mates. Bourbons are completely banned. Only digestives are permitted, and they must be from Costcutters. In fact, you can offer branded biscuits only when selling generic drugs.
Compliance means more than just obeying those rules you know about in those transactions you personally carry out. You have to find out what all the relevant rules are and then apply them to every commercial interaction that touches your company. Being compliant takes proactive commitment, intelligence and good teamwork. Though when I put ‘Totally compliant’ on my Facebook profile I got some interesting messages.
So it was with some amusement that I read a recent newspaper story: the Conservative Party’s co-treasurer Peter Cruddas told undercover journalists posing as financiers that a minimum donation of £250,000 to Party coffers would gain them direct access to the PM’s policy unit. Make with the cash, he told them, and “things will open up for you”. In case they were unsure what that might be worth, he clarified the point: “It will be awesome for your business.”
Pardon my naive attitude, but WTF? The only part of ‘Foreign Corrupt Practices’ not implied by such promises is the word ‘Foreign’. Perhaps, before they legislate to rein in pharma industry reps, some of these politicians should look in the mirror.
It’s worth noting here that the private healthcare corporations currently in line for a share of the NHS franchise now the new Health Bill has become law are major donors to the Conservative Party, just as they were to Andrew Lansley’s campaign fund when he was Shadow Health Secretary. In addition, the BMJ reports that half of the doctors on the new CCG boards have financial interests in private healthcare companies that will be bidding to provide NHS services.
And meanwhile, we get stamped on for giving away a few biros. Are they having a laugh?
Maxine’s views are not necessarily those of Pharmaceutical Field.