Back to school
Going back to school conjures up some dreaded images. Homework. Tests. Bullies. So, the invitation to go to "PMCQ University," an all-morning event promising to be "an interactive and engaging session that examines the status of current industry guidelines, their interpretation and application," also conjured up some images. Like, will anyone actually go to this? Well, yes. The guesstimated attendance was a surprising two hundred plus eager students, hungry for higher education, anxious for enlightenment on the dos and don'ts according to Rx&D and PAAB-and even they acknowledge their bully image.
The tests started right away. Ten questions on various advertising, promotion and CME situations designed to measure expertise and opinion. Fingers poised over touchpads, cue the Jeopardy, Mission Impossible or James Bond music, ten seconds to answer… go. The class did pretty well, by all counts. The majority answered with insight and intelligence, especially when asked whether they preferred PAAB or the federal government to regulate pharmaceutical advertising. Eighty-three percent wisely chose PAAB. Well, the chief bully was in the room.
Gary Handelsman, first speaker up, made it clear that he did not represent Rx&D, but as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry watchdog, he had been asked to bring his experienced viewpoint. Mr. Handelsman emphasized that the Rx&D code is not a guideline, but an actual code-to be accepted, believed and followed. Touching on questions of CME sponsorships, entertainment and promo activities, he highlighted a troubling re-appearing problem: service-oriented items. Hockey pucks and shoeshine kits? Watch for changes in enforcement and fines in excess of $15,000 for infractions of the Rx&D code.
Next up, PAAB commissioner Ray Chepesiuk, who characterizes his board's role as "not the police-we're here to advise you." In fact, his goal is to make the PAAB logo more of a trustmark like the CSA logo on consumer goods. Chepesiuk expressed his happiness at seeing most preferred PAAB over the feds, citing a ten-month response time as normal from the government, versus PAAB's average of ten days.
Mark McElwain, VP and partner with Allard Johnson Communications, brought the view from the other side of the regulations and the other side of the border. He cited that the environment in the US was tightening and the FDA has been levying significant fines. And of course, when the US sneezes… you know the rest. McElwain's prediction is that over the next five years, the pressure to reform will be on CME, where a great deal of code infractions are still taking place.
The morning session closed with a panel discussion and student test on three CME scenarios with obvious and not so obvious infractions. The Montréal Children's Hospital's Dr. Mel Schloss brought yet another perspective to the panel. In short, the interactive responses showed that Handelsman, Chepesiuk and McElwain had taught their grasshoppers well. Collective answers were received with appreciation from the panel; however, Chepesiuk did complain that he hoped even more of us would be able to answer more knowledgeably. Hey, it's our first day back to school. Can we have a break now?
By Rich Hammond
To view Mark Elwain's Power Point presentation
(Allard Johnson Communications Inc.)
To view Ray Chepesiuk's Power Point presentation (PAAB)