Recent years have seen increased regulation from government bodies within Europe, and from the industry regulators implementing more stringent codes and guidelines pertaining to the interactions between the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries and healthcare professionals (HCPs). These factors have had direct impact on medical associations, their meetings activities and revenue streams.
Medical association congresses have long been recognised as a valuable platform for the professional practitioner and allied healthcare community to come together with pharmaceutical and medical-device companies for learning and scientific exchange. External factors such as the introduction of transparency reporting of ‘Transfer of Value’ (ToV), and Congress Vetting by industry regulators have resulted in medical congress organisers having to review their logistical congress organisation, business models, and adjusting these to align with changes taking place.
New Challenges in 2018
2018 will be present new challenges. Whilst two of the significant impactors, EU GDPR and the cessation by the European medical-device industry authorities permitting the direct sponsoring HCPs to attend as a delegate third-party organised medical education conferences are EU focused, the outreach will be global.
Legislation pertaining to the interactions between the medical-device industry in Europe and HCPs is not new. Many European countries have had government statutes in place for years stipulating the conditions around direct sponsorship of HCPs. However, in December 2015, the members of the European Diagnostics Manufacturers Association (EDMA) and the European Medical Technology Industry Association (Eucomed) voted to phase out the direct sponsorship by their members of HCPs at third-party events by 1 January 2018. Since then member organisations of EDMA and Eucomed, individual companies and national medical-device trade bodies have started to implement revised practices in readiness.
Direct sponsorship is defined as the payment by companies of some or all the following: travel, lodging, and/or conference registration fees. These costs are either reimbursed to the HCP or paid direct by the company via the purchase of travel tickets, payment of hotel expenses and/or of the registration fee to the conference organiser.
Medical conferences in Europe, and those further afield which have benefitted from international delegations sponsored by medical-device companies in Europe, have already been experiencing a reduction in sponsored HCPs in readiness for the January 2018 deadline.
Eucomed and EFPIA will both continue to vet medical congresses, as an indicator to their members of congress ‘appropriateness’. However, the pharmaceutical industry, having introduced greater public transparency reporting of payments made to HCPs for activities such as sponsorship to attend third-party organised medical congresses, have to-date stopped short of prohibiting direct sponsorship.
So, what are the implications for the association medical congress organiser? Certainly, those who have been used to delegates being sponsored by the European medical-device industry should prepare themselves for revenue reduction. Whilst not all medical-device companies in Europe are members of EDMA or Eucomed, national association members of the European organisations have incorporated the EDMA and Eucomed Codes of Ethical Business Practice into their national codes.
These changes do not preclude all direct sponsorship of HCPs attending third-party medical education conferences by medical-device companies. HCPs who are ‘passive’ attendees (a delegate) will be ineligible to receive direct sponsorship. A passive attendee is defined as someone who is not faculty, and therefore does not have a specific active role at a conference.
HCPs who are defined as ‘active’ attendees, often called ‘faculty’, i.e. who will speak, present or serve another specific function at a third-party organised conference, will still be eligible for direct sponsorship under specific rules.
Medical-device companies will still be permitted to directly sponsor HCPs to company-organised training activities if the strict criteria outlined in the code is adopted, the rationale being that industry has a responsibility to train HCPs on the use of their products and relevant surgical procedures to ensure maximum safety for patients. Attendance at Satellite Symposia organised on the peripheries of a third-party organised conference does not meet the criteria for direct HCP sponsorship unless the HCP is faculty.
This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, author Caroline Mackenzie, Global Association Partners, on behalf of IAPCO. IAPCO represents today 117 companies comprised of professional congress organisers, meeting planners and managers of international and national congresses, conventions and special events from 41 countries www.iapco.org
The full version of this article can be read in the November issue of Boardroom available here.