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Launch of first conference vetting system: getting closer...

In October last year, Eucomed published a press release to introduce to its broader membership and stakeholders the launch of a new “Conference vetting system” in 2012. Aimed to simplify decision-making for Eucomed members by providing clear approvals on sponsorship of events, this unique initiative in our industry has already interested the media, including an article in the Financial Times.

The creation of a single decision-making system was very much pushed by our members, and in particular by the Eucomed Board of Directors and the Eucomed Compliance Network. Until now, members had to determine themselves whether a conference or a congress was compliant with applicable rules, and whether it was appropriate or not to sponsor it. Given the complexity of these decisions, in particular with regard to determining the appropriateness of sponsoring specific events, individual decisions did not always result in the same conclusion.

The industry requested a system that allows the assessments of events according to criteria related to scientific programmes and location, and venues. This system should not only simplify decision-making for industry sponsorship of third-party educational conferences, but also harmonise the interpretation of the Eucomed Code of Ethical Business Practice across the industry. In turn, this will result in greater consistency and transparency of industry behaviour with regard to ethics.

The Conference vetting system will be the first system of its kind in the healthcare industry due to its mandatory nature. The system will be binding on Eucomed members who must comply with the conference appraisal assessments. The reach will go beyond Eucomed’s membership and also impact other key stakeholders such as congress organisers, scientific societies and other actors in the healthcare industry.

Since the announcement in October, we have been receiving many requests from members, sister organisations and congress organisers about the system, and when it will be launched. Although we respond to all requests individually, we also wanted to keep you in the loop on the latest update.

So, how far are we in the process? What has happened since last October?

We have had several meetings with the Compliance Panel and members of Eucomed to establish, in the most transparent way possible, a credible and effective conference vetting system.

One key point we took into consideration when developing the system was to guarantee its independence. This is why the Conference vetting system is structured around our independent Compliance Panel and supported by an equally independent "auditor" (the Compliance Officer) who will scrutinise every relevant medical congress, seminar, training course and therapy-oriented training to ensure compliance with the Eucomed Code of Ethical Business Practice.

Another aspect relates to members of Eucomed themselves. As mentioned above, once the system is operational, it will prohibit them from directly sponsoring or supporting doctors’ attendance at any conference that received a negative assessment. We need to ensure that all our members are aware of the system, use it and understand how it will impact their day-to-day activities.

We are planning to launch the conference vetting system in the course of the month. Steps we have taken so far are:

  1. Determination of specificities and key aspects of the system (assessment criteria, process, extent);
  2. Development of a branding and platform to support the system;
  3. Recruitment of the Compliance Officer who will manage the system.

Important to note is the 6-month pilot phase. The Compliance Panel, the members and Eucomed believe that starting off the conference vetting system as a 6-month pilot is necessary to help us test the new platform and make changes if required. We will be able to establish the number of congresses to be assessed each month and the workload for the Compliance Officer. Moreover, the 6-month pilot phase will allow us to secure the engagement of relevant parties about working and value of the new system.

Launching the system as a pilot also has implications. During this phase, only Eucomed members, congress organisers and scientific societies will be allowed to submit European conferences via the Conference vetting system. Other parties will be able to freely access the new platform and look for already assessed congresses. Also during this phase, assessments made will be recommendations only, therefore non-binding upon members.

After 6 months, the recommendations will be binding for all members of Eucomed. In addition, we plan to open the use of the system to everybody and to extend the scope of assessment to conferences taking place outside of Europe.

We know that once the platform is launched, it may take some time for everyone to adapt, but we are convinced that this system is necessary to ensure that that industry’s collaboration with healthcare professionals adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards. We are happy to say that based on the feedback received so far, it looks like there is strong support for the system we are constructing - a compelling validation of the Eucomed Code of Ethical Business Practice.

More information to come soon…

Aline Lautenberg
Senior Legal Counsel Eucomed

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