New PhRMA Code of Ethics may impact radiology

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The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) board of directors has adopted new measures for the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, which may warrant the attentions of radiologists and radiation oncologists.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) said that the changes, which take effect in January 2009, recognize that interactions between drug company representatives and healthcare professionals "should be focused on informing the healthcare professionals about products, providing scientific and educational information and supporting medical research and education.”

Two provisions that directly impact contacts between pharmaceutical sales personnel and physicians and their staffs might be of particular interest to radiologists and radiation oncologists, according to PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin.

The first new restriction prohibits distribution of non-educational items (such as pens, mugs and other objects typically adorned with a company or product logo) to healthcare providers and their staffs. The code acknowledges that such items, even though of minimal value, "may foster misperceptions that a company’s interactions with healthcare professionals are not based on informing them about medical and scientific issues."

The second restriction prohibits company sales representatives from providing restaurant meals to healthcare professionals, but allows them to provide occasional meals in the healthcare professionals' offices in conjunction with informational presentations. The code also reaffirms previous statements that companies should not provide any entertainment or recreational benefits to healthcare professionals, according to the ACR.

While the PhRMA Code is voluntary and applies only to the pharmaceutical industry, radiologists should be aware of these ethical rules to make sure that they and their staff members do not inadvertently request or encourage sales personnel to violate the code, the college said.