Pharma group adopts stringent conduct code

Drugmakers don't like to be tarred as unethical. So, in the face of increasing scrutiny of its behavior in emerging markets--and the challenges of operating in lightly regulated, corruption-prone countries--a global industry association has rolled out a strict new code of conduct.

The self-governing move specifies when cash is allowed to change hands and what sort of entertainment spending is allowed, Reuters reports. And it extends the rules to cover interactions not only with doctors, but with patient organizations and other healthcare providers as well.

The new code, announced by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, could be particularly helpful in countries that don't have their own organizations policing pharma behavior, Reuters says. But it doesn't just apply in those places. The rules would allow drugmakers to distribute samples of their products, as Bloomberg points out, but they won't allow free entertainment outside medical meetings. And personal gifts are verboten. So, no handouts of concert tickets or trips to stadium skyboxes, Bloomberg notes.

In a statement, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan (photo), the organization's current president, called the new code "a framework for the industry to act with integrity and build trust. This is not about doing the easy thing, but the right thing."

Of course, self-policing is just that, and it relies on individual companies--and their individual employees--to follow through. As the recent spate of government settlements shows, drugmakers aren't always great at hewing to standards, even when mandated by law. But, partly because of the bad publicity surrounding settlements, patient lawsuits and congressional probes, drugmakers have made some moves toward transparency and away from the freebies and junkets that once were common.

- read the IFPMA statement
- get more from Bloomberg
- see the Reuters story