Academic Detailing and Health Plan Communications: Is the Playing Field Level?

By Kenneth P. Berkowitz, Esq.

July 21, 2011 — Why does the government fail to apply current regulatory requirements and rules to health plans and academic detailing? For some time now, many in the Coalition and industry have wondered why DDMAC, the OIG, the Department of Justice and various state Attorneys General and consumer fraud units – in their haste to attack industry communications and marketing – have failed to apply the same standards to detailing efforts and communications by health plans and academic detailing organizations. Surely these organizations’ goals and plans to promote particular products raise the very same issues and practices concerning kickbacks and off-label promotion that the government has so eagerly attacked when the industry is involved. One would think that bonuses paid by health plans to physicians to prescribe certain products come under the broad government definition of “kickbacks.”

This scenario raises a number of questions. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the terms under which academic detailing organizations offer their services to hospitals and universities? Is payment tied in any way to healthcare professional prescribing of “detailed” products? Are bonuses available? How does one determine if academic detailers have met their contractual goals? Whatever happened to transparency when it is not directed to the healthcare industry? And why the silence on the part of DDMAC and other government agencies? DDMAC proclaims its “Bad Ad” program is working to catch supposedly improper industry marketing, but why isn’t it directed at others who violate the rules, promote off label or make unsubstantiated claims? The two articles listed below look at some of

these issues. Will the government remain silent?

To link to the RPM Report article, “A Word to the Wise as Managed Care Enters Rx Communications,” click here.

To link to the Washington Legal Foundation article, “A FEDERAL UNSALES FORCE?: ‘Academic Detailing’ on Medical Treatments and the Oversight Imperative,” click here.

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