Pharmaceutical Companies

On 9 June 2023, the UK Government published further guidance relating to the practical implementation of the Windsor Framework (agreed between the UK and the EU on 27 February 2023, please see our client alert here).  This overarching guidance contains further detail from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) on the implementation

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

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. Continue Reading EU Pharma Legislation Review Series: Advertising Updates Reflect Evolution Rather than Revolution

On 21 March 2023, the UK Government published its response to the consultation on legislative reform proposals for clinical trials that took place from January to March 2022. 

The current legislation governing clinical trials in the UK is the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004, as amended.  This implements the EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC and has not been amended to align with the subsequently introduced EU Clinical Trials Regulation 536/2014.

The proposed reforms centre on delivering “a more agile and flexible UK regulatory framework”, as part of the Government’s broader ambition to create a more appealing regulatory environment for life sciences innovation in the UK.  The emphasis on promoting clinical research in the UK was highlighted by the recent Government announcement of an independent review into UK clinical trials, prompted by figures suggesting that the number of industry clinical trials initiated in the UK per year fell by 41% between 2017 and 2021.  In addition, a decline in public engagement with clinical research (with a 44% drop in the number of participants recruited to commercial clinical trials in the last five years) highlights the need for reform in this area.

The Government’s proposed reforms involve streamlining the procedures supporting the approval and conduct of clinical trials, removing duplicative requirements, and enabling flexibility in a risk-based and proportionate manner. 

The proposals also envisage a clinical trials regime that requires greater transparency and encourages, though notably will not require, a diverse range of patient and public involvement.

The main proposals with which the Government intends to move forward are discussed below.Continue Reading Legislative Proposals for Clinical Trials Aim to Streamline, Simplify and Stimulate UK-based Innovation

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.

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).Continue Reading UK PMCPA Publishes First Ever Guidance to Pharmaceutical Companies about Social Media

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.Continue Reading IFPMA and EFPIA Publish New Joint Guidance Note on Social Media and Digital Channels

On 14 July 2022, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on “substances of human origin” (“SoHO”) intended for human application.  The proposed Regulation is intended to replace the existing and largely outdated Directives on SoHO, respectively on Blood and on Tissues and Cells.  These sets of rules govern the sourcing and use of starting materials for innovative therapies, such as blood, tissues and cells.  Pharmaceutical companies active in the manufacturing of advanced therapy medicinal products (“ATMPs”) are therefore well advised to closely monitor the developments surrounding the proposed Regulation.Continue Reading European Commission to Harmonize Rules on the use of Substances of Human Origin

On 31 May 2022, the Italian Parliament approved Law 62/2022, also known as the Sunshine Act.  The Sunshine Act entered into force on 26 June 2022.  However, it will become fully enforceable once the Ministry of Health sets up the Public Register where companies will have to disclose their data and issues the necessary implementing acts.  This means that realistically the new transparency system will not be operational before 2023.  Nonetheless, it is critical that companies operating in Italy make sure that they are ready when the time comes.  Here, we outline some of the key features of the new Sunshine Act and the steps that companies could take in preparation.Continue Reading The New Italian Sunshine Act: What Companies Should Know And How To Get Ready