New code bans logo-strewn tchotchkes

They're not the costliest items pharma gives doctors, but they're certainly the flashiest--and now they're no longer allowed. Under a new policy announced today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, drug reps won't be allowed to hand out logo-covered pens, prescription pads, mugs, clocks, mouse pads, and other freebies at physician's offices. That should cut down on the barrage of logos patients see when they walk into the office. The new marketing code will also ban individual reps from wining and dining doctors at restaurants.

But the code will allow reps to bring food along when they offer "informational presentations" in doctors' offices, according to PhRMA's press release. And it won't limit the millions of dollars spent on speaking and consulting fees--but will require companies to set their own internal limits and track those payments. The latter requirement could be helpful when/if federal legislation forces companies to disclose the amounts they're paying doctors.

Will this voluntary policy satisfy the industry's critics? Some, such as Sen. Herb Kohl, applauded the measure in the New York Times. Others called it a sham designed to forestall "doing anything that's serious." Given the amount of back-and-forth over pharma marketing in recent months, we expect PhRMA's conduct code to prompt plenty of debate.

- check out PhRMA's release
- read the New York Times article
- see the Wall Street Journal Health Blog's take