PhRMA not interested in free-sample limits

Is the U.S. pharma trade group falling behind on code-of-conduct rules? PhRMA is concerned enough about Europe's new standards of behavior to issue a statement defending its own approach.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry and Associates recently instituted a new code that limits the number of free samples drugmakers can hand out to any one doctor. The rule restricts sales reps to four sample packets per year per doctor. And it stipulates that samples can only be handed out for the first two years after a drug is approved.

Medical Marketing & Media asked PhRMA whether drugmakers might be held to the same standards in the U.S.--and got a statement in return. "There are many significant differences between European health care systems and the health care laws in place in the United States," PhRMA SVP Ken Johnson explains in the statement. "In the U.S., free samples have helped improve the quality of life for millions of patients."

Free samples--along with other gifts and payments to doctors--have come under scrutiny over the past couple of years. Critics believe that samples induce doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs rather than cheaper, effective alternatives. Some clinics and teaching hospitals now either forego samples altogether or collect them in a central pool so that they're not given directly to physicians.

- read the MM&M story