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Will Device Meetings in Europe Suffer Under New Ethics Rule?

Will Device Meetings in Europe Suffer Under New Ethics Rule?

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Direct medical device industry-supported travel for European healthcare providers is banned under new ethics rules, making conference attendance likely to suffer despite the continuation of indirect means for companies to cover meeting travel.

Enacted on Jan. 1, 2018, the new Code of Ethics from MedTech Europe, an alliance of medical technology groups, makes it still possible for physicians to be supported by industry to attend medical conferences such as EuroPCR 2018 in May — just not with a direct invitation by a device company. APACMed and Mecomed echoed the rules for practitioners in Asia and the Middle East.

The new code dictates that device companies may give educational grants directly to hospitals, which allocate funds to their physicians, or indirectly via conference organizers that disseminate funds to health centers and their practitioners. Each institution is responsible for choosing the employees that may attend each meeting.

Close to 2,000 healthcare professionals will benefit from indirect sponsorship to support fully or partly their attendance at EuroPCR 2018, estimated Patrick Jolly,director of PCR strategic and market development.

The organization sent an email earlier this month that said, “How can you, as a Healthcare Professional, benefit from sponsorship to attend the Course? Firstly, be reassured, obtaining support from Industry to attend EuroPCR 2018 is still possible!” It outlined two paths: unrestricted grants through the organizers of the conference or, the “most effective way,” through one’s medical center.

“This is a far-reaching change from direct to indirect sponsorship, which means that companies will no longer interact directly with physicians but only with medical societies and PCOs [professional conference organizers]. Edwards long advocated for the major change embodied in the new Code of Ethics,” said one Edwards Lifesciences representative.

“We have one educational grant with Europa, the PCO managing EuroPCR. Europa will manage all contact with hospitals and physicians. This grant is anticipated to allow the attendance of approximately 90 physicians from 40-50 hospitals. Edwards will provide a list of potential hospitals, which were selected based on their specific educational needs,” he added.

Meanwhile, Philips is providing five unrestricted educational grants at the PCR-EAPCI Fellow Course in 2018.

“The revised code does not change the way in which Philips interacts with European clinicians and we remain committed to providing transparent support to research and educational programs in compliance with applicable regulations and codes of conduct,” a Philips spokesman said.

Still, the transition from direct to indirect sponsorship will likely have an impact on European conference attendance beginning this year.

“I expect there will be a reduction in attendance of around 20%,” said Justin Davies, MBBS, PhD, of Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospital. Davies told MedPage Today that while he will not be personally affected by the new policy, his colleagues do have to change travel plans.

Marco Valgimigli, MD, PhD, of Switzerland’s Bern University Hospital, predicted that 80% to 90% of European physicians will be affected in one way or another.

“Attendance will be greatly reduced and European physicians will probably have to prioritize one major international congress per year. There are institutions which do foresee a personal budget to be used for traveling to congresses. Physicians working in these institutions will be less affected,” he said. “On the other side, physicians working outside these institutions may struggle to fund traveling to international congresses.”

“The model of interaction among us will have to be re-visited which is not necessarily a bad thing. I personally believe there are far too many congresses around the world, so if this new model will force the community to focus on a few selected international events, then it could actually be beneficial I think,” according to Valgimigli.

Besides fewer congresses, Davies suggested that some of their components (such as medical education) will start to move online.


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