E.U. trade group to sharply limit free samples

Drugmakers will be offering free samples less freely in the E.U. Europe's pharma trade group has established a new code that will limit handouts to four packets per doctor each year--and only for the first two years after the launch of a new drug, the Financial Times reports.

The idea is to give doctors a chance to try new meds, but to avoid the sort of conflicts-of-interest accusations that have been dogging drugmakers for the past couple of years. The pharma industry has been under fire for showering doctors with free meals, junkets, speakers' fees, small gifts and free samples, to the point where companies themselves have begun disclosing their gift-giving to physicians. Meanwhile, some U.S. healthcare systems and medical schools--and even state governments--have set strict limits on industry's interaction with healthcare pros, including limits on free samples.

The industry has been trying to stay ahead of public opinion: Hence the proactive doc-payment disclosures, and a new code of conduct from the U.S. trade group, PhRMA. So, the fact that the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations is doing the same isn't too surprising. But the free-sample limits are unprecedented.

The E.U. group is also introducing tougher guidelines for industry exhibits and marketing efforts at scientific conferences, and it's considering requiring drugmakers to disclose any funding or in-kind support they provide to patients' organizations.

- get the release from Efpia (.pdf)
- read the FT piece