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The Top 5: Changes to the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct (16th Edition)

Medicines Australia reviews the Code of Conduct every three years, after seeking input from interested parties. The ACCC authorised the 16th edition in December last year and, along with the accompanying Guidelines, it came into effect on 1 January 2010.

This month’s Top 5 highlights some of the key changes*.

1. Brand Name Reminders

Brand Name Reminders are now limited to educational items and/or those directly related to the practice of medicine or pharmacy. Items likely to be used outside these practices (e.g. pens, pads, other stationery items, computer accessories and items of general utility) are unacceptable. The value of a Brand Name Reminder should not be greater than $20. If a permitted item has a higher value (e.g. anatomical models) it cannot be product-branded, although company branding is permitted.

2. Health Consumer Organisations

Companies must now disclose on their websites the list of Health Consumer Organisations to which they provide direct or indirect financial support. Companies do not, however, have to disclose the extent of their financial contributions. The list must by updated annually and include a brief description of the nature of the support.

3. Healthcare Professional Media

A new provision acknowledges that while healthcare journalists are not necessarily healthcare professionals, they report solely for healthcare professionals. Companies can now interact with healthcare media as they would healthcare professionals and, likewise, company initiated media releases directed to healthcare professionals must comply with the Code.

4. Fines

The maximum fines for breaches of the Code have generally increased. If multiple breaches are determined within one complaint, the Code Committee may impose a fine of up to $300,000.

5. Mandatory Statements on Promotional Items

The required font sizes for mandatory statements have been changed and/or clarified. Additionally, to encourage company transparency, qualifying statements must appear directly below or adjacent to the relevant claim.

* Please note that these are not the only changes/updates to the Code and our comments should be interpreted in the context of the full 16th edition of the Code of Conduct and the accompanying Guidelines (see Medicines Australia).

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