The Voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access (“VPAS”) is a voluntary agreement that regulates the price of the vast majority of branded medicines sold in the UK (including branded generics and biosimilars). VPAS is critical to the commercial interests of most innovative pharmaceutical companies operating in the UK. It has traditionally
Supporting clients in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, medical device and consumer products sectors, Raj Gathani's practice is built around EU and UK regulatory and strategic advice.
Increasingly, Raj concentrates on post market-launch projects, such as advising on advertising compliance, communications, interactions with healthcare professionals and patients, pricing controls and reimbursement strategies particularly in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Healthcare, its structure and delivery are specialist practice areas for Raj, particularly having operated healthcare and pharmacy businesses for eight years prior to joining the firm. This experience enables Raj to provide in-depth advice to healthcare clients –particularly those in the digital health space – as well as other life sciences companies whose work engages medical practice, dispensing and health-services rules.
EU Pharma Legislation Review Series: Advertising Updates Reflect Evolution Rather than Revolution
As highlighted in our recent series of blog posts (please see our Inside EU Life Sciences blog series here), the European Commission has at long last published its proposal to overhaul EU legislation for human medicinal products.
On 26 April 2023, the Commission published its proposal for a new human medicines directive (the “Proposed Directive”) to replace the current European Medicines Directive (Directive 2001/83/EC); as well as a regulation for centrally authorised medicines (the “Proposed Regulation”) to replace the current Regulation 726/2004.
Medicines advertising and promotion rules are of key interest to pharmaceutical companies operating in the EU. This blog looks into how the new legislative proposal might affect the advertising landscape, focusing on the Proposed Directive (whose advertising provisions also apply to products covered under the Proposed Regulation).
For those of you who are perhaps breathless from the suite of new proposals, advertising and promotion may appear to be one small area to exhale in relief. However, some of the proposed changes may have significant practical implications, particularly for comparative advertising.
The headline news is that – for advertising – the Proposed Directive largely maintains the status quo. It remains aligned almost entirely with the current framework, supplementing rather than revolutionizing current law.
The evolutionary approach is unsurprising. EU-level law is really only the “tip” of the proverbial “iceberg” when it comes to pharmaceutical advertising in Europe. Many operational rules are nationally diverse, and found in national laws, codes and rulings. Moreover, in practice, pharmaceuticals advertising is often largely governed and enforced through the self-regulatory system and self-regulatory codes, such as the Code of Practice of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (the “EFPIA Code”) and its various national incarnations. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Proposed Directive suggests legislators have tried to avoid overhauling the intricate framework regulating advertising. Nevertheless, the Proposed Directive does make some changes to advertising rules. Most are generally uncontroversial and/or “tidy ups”; but others may be more significant, particularly supplementing the definition of “advertising” and new provisions on comparative advertising. …
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EU Talking Life Sciences Audiocast: Episode 3 – Social Media Challenges for Pharma Companies – Comparing Approaches in Europe and the US
Tune into the third episode of Covington’s Life Sciences Audiocast, where Grant Castle, Stefanie Doebler, and Raj Gathani discuss social media challenges for pharma companies in Europe and the U.S.
UK PMCPA Publishes First Ever Guidance to Pharmaceutical Companies about Social Media
On 26 January 2023, the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (“PMCPA”) published its “Social Media Guidance 2023” (the “Guidance”).
The Guidance is the first of its kind in the UK and is long-awaited.
The PMCPA is the self-regulatory body that administers and enforces the ABPI Code (the voluntary advertising code that many pharmaceutical companies adhere to in the UK). The ABPI Code sets out a number of overarching principles but does not address social media in detail. The PMCPA had some years ago published “digital guidelines” but these were archived for updating.
The first – and probably most important – thing to say about the Guidance is that it (finally) exists. Social media has become a major compliance headache for UK pharmaceutical companies. These days a significant number of PMCPA complaints, investigations and adjudications concern corporate or employee social media activity, particularly on LinkedIn. The absence of clear and codified guidance until now led to a lack of clarity. Key regulatory principles had evolved through a series of case rulings, which were often highly fact-dependent. While dissecting cases into the early hours may be interesting for us pharmaceutical advertising lawyers, compliance teams will likely appreciate having codified guidelines to refer to.
Secondly, the Guidance is likely to disappoint anyone hoping for seismic shifts in the PMCPA’s regulatory approach. Much of the Guidance aligns closely to rules and principles that had developed in the Authority’s case history. It also broadly aligns with EFPIA’s and IFPMA’s recently published “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Social Media and Digital Media Channels” (see our blog post).…
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CJEU Rules on the Advertising of “Unspecified Medicinal Products” in the EU
On 22 December 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) — sitting in Grand Chamber — published its judgement in case C-530, Euroaptieka. The judgement adds further commentary to the meaning of “advertising medicinal products” in the EU and the competencies of EU Member States to restrict drug advertising activities. The judgement has particular implications for advertising “unspecified medicinal products”. No doubt, this judgement will be of interest to pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies looking at the communications activities they carry out in the EU and the risks entailed.…
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IFPMA and EFPIA Publish New Joint Guidance Note on Social Media and Digital Channels
On 28 September 2022, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) published joint guidelines concerning the use of social media and digital media channels by pharmaceutical companies (Joint Digital Guidelines). IFPMA and EFPIA are umbrella trade bodies for the innovative pharmaceutical industry on the global and European stages, respectively.
The Joint Digital Guidelines are timely. Digital communications and the use of social media have become hot compliance topics for the pharmaceutical industry, both in Europe and globally. Actors in the healthcare world increasingly use digital communication channels; many clinicians, patients and patient organizations actually prefer to receive content digitally. With more content comes higher compliance risk. Digital communications, particularly over social media, can spread fast across borders and are often publicly accessible.
It is no surprise that a very significant number of pharmaceutical advertising cases in European markets now concern digital channels or social media. This certainly reflects our experience; and this is an area where our pharmaceutical advertising experts are continually advising clients.…
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UK Aims for Faster and Fairer Access to Innovative Treatments as NICE Announces Major Changes to its Health Technology Appraisals Process
On 20 January 2022, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced major changes to the processes and methods by which it assesses the cost-effectiveness of medicines and other health technologies.
NICE is an independent expert body tasked with appraising the cost-effectiveness of medicines and recommending whether a product should be funded by the National Health Service (NHS). NICE is therefore considered the gatekeeper for medicines reimbursement; a positive recommendation obliges the NHS to fund a product.
NICE has announced a suite of detailed changes, which mark the culmination of a two-year-plus long “methods review”. NICE will implement the changes in new guidelines. They are due to take effect from February 2022.…
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NHS England Publishes Draft Commercial Framework for Medicines
NHS England has recently published draft proposals on how it plans to approach doing commercial deals with pharmaceutical companies for branded medicines. This draft “Commercial Framework” is now open for comment and consultation (stakeholders can submit their views here). The consultation period ends on 10 January 2020, with Commercial Framework expected to be finalized…
General Court Makes Interim Order to Protect Confidentiality in Pari Pharma Transparency Case
Raj Gathani, a Trainee Solicitor in Covington’s London office, contributed to this post.
On 1 September 2015 the General Court issued an interim order in favour of Pari Pharma GmbH (“Pari”) to suspend the European Medicines Agency’s (“EMA”) decision to grant a third-party, Novartis Europharm Ltd (“Novartis”), access to certain documents prepared during the Marketing Authorisation (“MA”) application process (the “MA Documents”). The MA Documents at issue included EMA Assessment Reports on similarity and superiority between Pari’s product (Vantobra) and Novartis’ product (TOBI Podhaler), which has an EU MA as an orphan medicine. Novartis made the request to the EMA for access to the MA Documents under the Transparency Regulation 1049/2001. The main case is currently pending before the General Court (Case T-235/15).
The thrust of Pari’s argument before the General Court was that the MA Documents contain Pari’s regulatory strategy for obtaining MA approval, disclosure of which might cause Pari serious and irreparable financial damage. The President of the General Court acknowledged that the case raised complex issues in the area of confidentiality and stated that the main proceedings (rather than an interim hearing) is the appropriate forum to address such issues.. As such the President considered that the MA Documents fell under a presumption of confidentiality and ordered the EMA not to disclose the MA Documents.
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