Navigating the Complicated, Yet Rewarding, World of Social Media

The social media phenomenon has radically transformed the ways in which commercial businesses promote their services and products. However, as a result, companies must consider potential legal risks from an entirely new angle. To become a successful user of social media, a company must draft, review, disseminate and enforce a social media policy that addresses potential legal issues while at the same time emphasizing positive exposure for the business.

For more information on how your business can utilize social media to maximum effect while exercising compliance with legal guidelines, see Reed Smith’s newly published Third Edition of its white paper on social media, “Network Interference: A Legal Guide to the Commercial Risks and Rewards of the Social Media Phenomenon (3rd Edition).” This updated guide now covers practical, action-oriented guidelines as to the state of law in both the United States and Europe, and is an invaluable resources for companies navigating the social media world.

Massachusetts Releases Final Regulations, Restores Annual "Sunshine" Reporting Requirement for Drug/Device Manufacturers

This post was written by Elizabeth B. Carder-Thompson, Katie C. Pawlitz and Nancy E. Bonifant.

On Wednesday, November 21, 2012, Massachusetts’ Public Health Council (“Council”) approved amendments to the State’s Marketing Code of Conduct, which restricts certain gifts and payments by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to Massachusetts health care practitioners (“HCPs”) and requires disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The final regulations, effective as of December 7, 2012, primarily adopt the emergency regulations issued by the State in September but make a few substantive changes.

Importantly, the final regulations do not include language from the emergency regulations that eliminated the requirement that manufacturers report annually specific information regarding payments in connection with sales and marketing activities after calendar year 2012 reports. Instead, the final regulations only prohibit duplicative reporting to Massachusetts if manufacturers have already reported the same information pursuant to federal law (for example, the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act), and such information is available to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”).

The Council also adopted the revised provisions regarding modest meals substantially as written in the emergency regulations. Under the revision, manufacturers are allowed to provide modest meals and refreshments to HCPs at non-CME educational presentations, as long as manufacturers file quarterly reports detailing such meals. Notably, the Council declined to define “modest” with a clear monetary limit or specifically to ban alcohol at industry-funded events and presentations, as requested by public commenters. With regard to the required quarterly reports, the Council did include a new, open-ended category of information that must be reported: “such other information as determined necessary by the Commissioner.” It is not clear whether this requirement will be clarified in further regulations or guidance that DPH is expected to issue.

Looking forward, the full effect of Massachusetts’ final regulations will not be clear until the release of the final rule for the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act, because that rule will determine the extent to which Massachusetts’ annual reporting requirement will be preempted. Based on Massachusetts’ final regulations, however, it appears the quarterly reports regarding meals at non-CME educational presentations will not be subject to preemption. Massachusetts’ final regulations are available here.
 

Massachusetts Signals Potential Elimination of HCP Payment Reporting Requirement Through Emergency Regulatory Amendments

This post was written by Elizabeth Carder-Thompson, Katie C. Pawlitz and Nancy E. Bonifant.

On September 19, 2012, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved emergency amendments to the State’s Marketing Code of Conduct regulations, 105 CMR 970.000, which restrict certain gifts and payments by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to Massachusetts health care practitioners (“HCPs”) and require disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The regulations, effective as of September 19, 2012, follow amendments to the underlying statute, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111N, signed into law in July by Governor Deval Patrick as part of the FY2013 State Budget. The July statutory amendments are further discussed here in our earlier Client Alert.

The emergency regulatory amendments include many expected changes as a result of the July statutory amendments, including now allowing manufacturers to provide modest meals and refreshments to HCPs at non-CME educational presentations, as long as manufacturers file quarterly reports detailing such meals. However, the emergency amendments also provide that a manufacturer shall be deemed to have met such reporting requirements if the company makes all disclosures required under federal law (for example, the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act), and such disclosures are then reported by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”).

In addition, and importantly, the emergency regulations include new language eliminating the requirement that manufacturers report specific information regarding payments in connection with sales and marketing activities after such reports are made for calendar year 2012. Therefore, although the July 2012 statutory amendments prohibit duplicative reporting to Massachusetts if manufacturers have already reported the same information pursuant to federal law and DPH can obtain the information, the emergency regulatory amendments go even further by eliminating the Massachusetts reporting requirement altogether.

Notably, emergency regulations remain in effect for only three months unless they are formally promulgated according to the Massachusetts Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, further regulatory action will be necessary to eliminate fully the reporting requirement in 2013 and going forward.

On October 19, 2012, DPH held a public hearing and solicited public testimony regarding the emergency regulations. While some industry stakeholders supported the current definition of “modest meals,” which focuses on “local standards,” others requested that DPH define “modest” with a clear monetary limit and specifically ban alcohol at industry-funded events and presentations. Additionally, stakeholders disagreed regarding whether quarterly reports related to modest meals and refreshments at non-CME educational presentations should be required, given that similar reporting obligations under federal law. Regardless of whether the reporting requirement is permanently eliminated, however, Massachusetts’ broad restrictions remain with respect to gifts and other benefits provided by manufacturers to HCPs.

As we await DPH’s final determination regarding the emergency regulatory amendments, Massachusetts’ potential elimination of the reporting requirement may portend what can be expected from other states as we near release of the final rule for the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act.

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires applicable manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, or medical supplies covered under Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP to report annually to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services certain payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. Once implemented, the federal Act will preempt any state law that requires a manufacturer to disclose the same type of information required to be reported under the federal law. However, the federal Act does not preempt any state laws that require the disclosure or reporting of information that falls outside of the scope of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. For example, while the federal law only applies to payments and transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, the Massachusetts reporting requirements cover a broader group of HCPs, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants. As such, but for the recent emergency regulatory amendments, certain Massachusetts reporting requirements would still apply, notwithstanding federal preemption.

Massachusetts’ emergency amendments are available here.

As Federal Sunshine Looms, Massachusetts Loosens Manufacturer Gift Ban and Disclosure Law, and Allows Certain Drug Coupons and Vouchers

This post was written by Elizabeth Carder-Thompson, Katie C. Pawlitz and Nancy E. Bonifant.

As drug and device manufacturers continue to await final regulations and subsequent implementation of the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act, passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts has relaxed its similar state law banning the provision by manufacturers of gifts to health care practitioners (“HCPs”) and requiring disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The revisions are intended to loosen certain restrictions related to providing meals and other expenses to HCPs, and also expressly to relieve manufacturers of the duty to report to Massachusetts information that has already been disclosed to federal agencies, such as data reported to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") pursuant to the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. In addition, Massachusetts will now permit pharmaceutical manufacturers to offer drug coupons and other reductions to Massachusetts residents, as long as certain conditions are met.

The Massachusetts gift ban and disclosure amendments come at a time when manufacturers continue to consider how the new federal disclosure requirements will impact state reporting requirements. Massachusetts’ revisions also represent a growing shift in states’ willingness to defer to federal reporting, in lieu of requiring their own reporting.

Notwithstanding this shift, state laws continue to impose their own differing restrictions on certain payments and gifts to HCPs, an issue that is not addressed by the federal law. The Physician Payment Sunshine Law requires manufacturers to disclose to CMS information related to payments and transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, but does not otherwise restrict the types or levels of payments and benefits that may be provided to physicians and teaching hospitals. Multiple states, including Massachusetts, have more prescriptive laws that dictate the types of payments or benefits pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers can provide to HCPs, including physicians. CMS has indicated that manufacturers may be required to begin tracking reportable payments and other transfers of value for purposes of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act as soon as January 1, 2013.

Amendments to the Massachusetts Marketing Code of Conduct

On July 6, 2012, the governor of Massachusetts signed into law, as part of the FY2013 State Budget, revisions to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111N, the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturer Code of Conduct or “Massachusetts Marketing Code of Conduct,” which restricts certain gifts and payments by manufacturers to Massachusetts HCPs.

The revisions to the Massachusetts law include the following:

  • Expenses related to technical training. In a much-needed development, manufacturers are now permitted to provide payment for reasonable expenses necessary for technical training on the use of medical devices, regardless of whether such expenses are covered by a pre-existing purchase agreement. Previously, the law restricted this practice to situations in which such expenses were part of a vendor’s actual purchase contract for the device.
  • Meals Permitted at Non-CME Educational Presentations. Previous Massachusetts law restricted manufacturers from directly providing meals to HCPs except in office or hospital settings. The recent revisions relax this requirement by allowing manufacturers to provide or pay for “modest meals and refreshments” in connection with non-CME educational presentations for the purpose of educating and informing HCPs about the benefits, risks and appropriate uses of prescription products, disease states or other scientific information. The new exception applies only to presentations occurring in a “venue and manner conducive to informational communication.” The term “modest meals and refreshments” is to be defined by the Department of Public Health (“DPH”) through regulations.
  • Detailed Quarterly Reporting of Meals at Non-CME Educational Presentations. To the extent that manufacturers avail themselves of this exception, they must file quarterly reports detailing all presentations at which meals or refreshments are provided. These reports must specify: (1) the location of the non-CME presentation; (2) a description of the products discussed at such presentation; and (3) the total amount expended on such presentation and an estimate of the amount expended for meals and refreshments per participants. This quarterly reporting requirement is in addition to manufacturers’ already-detailed annual reporting requirement with respect to payments or benefits of $50 or more provided to HCPs. However, while the annual reporting requires identification of HCPs, the new quarterly requirement does not appear to be HCP-specific, although amounts per HCP must be disclosed. The revisions make clear that the DPH may require manufacturers to pay a to-be-determined fee to cover the costs of administering this new section.
  • Duplicative Reporting Not Required. The revisions prohibit the DPH from requiring manufacturers to disclose information to the DPH that they have already disclosed to a federal agency pursuant to federal law, if DPH can obtain the federal information. Accordingly, once manufacturers begin disclosing information to CMS under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, the same information will not need to be disclosed to Massachusetts.
  • Public Availability of Data. Pursuant to a newly added section, the DPH is required to make publicly available and easily searchable on its own website all disclosed data it receives from CMS in annual reports related to manufacturer disclosures pursuant to the Physician Payment Sunshine Act.

As passed on July 8, 2012, these amendments to the Massachusetts Marketing Code of Conduct do not specify an effective date, although the fiscal year of the state budget during which they were passed began July 1, 2012. The DPH has been charged with defining certain terms included in the amendments, and is also expected to make additional conforming amendments to the existing regulations, currently at 105 C.M.R. 970.000. Accordingly, manufacturers should continue to comply with the current regulations, even as they look toward taking advantage of the expanded opportunities for the provision to Massachusetts HCPs of certain meals and expenses consistent with the latest amendments.

Amendments Related to the Coupons, Vouchers, and other Reductions

Separate and apart from the revisions to the Massachusetts Code of Conduct, the FY2012 State Budget also relaxes the Massachusetts anti-kickback statute, which previously prohibited the provision of all coupons, vouchers, and other reductions for prescription medications.

The latest revision limits the prohibition to discounts, rebates, product vouchers or other reductions in an individual's out-of-pocket expenses, including co-payments and deductibles, only to those prescription drugs having an AB-rated generic equivalent. Accordingly, discounts, rebates, vouchers and other reductions can be offered for all drugs except for those with generic equivalents, provided that they are “provided directly or electronically to the individual or through a point of sale or mail-in rebate, or through similar means.” Moreover, manufacturers offering such coupons or reductions cannot exclude or favor any pharmacy for customer redemption

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Device manufacturers need to be able to provide education to physicians and hospital staff regarding actual and contemplated equipment purchases, and permitting the common courtesy of a modest snack or meal in connection with such training is a needed improvement. At the same time, given how comprehensive the federal disclosure requirements will be once implemented, and with results published on the Internet, we question the need for states to impose their own complicated and more expansive prohibitions and disclosure requirements, considering the significant operational and recordkeeping burdens they impose on manufacturers, not to mention the sometimes absurd practices that result (e.g., complex signage at conference booths with differing instructions for practitioners from different states entering the booth). On balance, it seems that funds for such manufacturer activities would be better dedicated to needed research and development.

We continue to monitor developments with respect to state and federal manufacturer marketing reporting requirements and gift bans. Please contact Elizabeth Carder-Thompson (202 414 9213 or ecarder@reedsmith.com), Katie C. Pawlitz (202 414 9233 or kpawlitz@reedsmith.com), Nancy Bonifant (202 414 9353 or nbonifant@reedsmith.com), or any other member of the Reed Smith Health Care Group with whom you work, if you would like additional information or if you have any questions.
 

Vermont Modifies Manufacturer Gift Ban and Reporting Law, Effective July 1, 2011

This post was written by Elizabeth B. Carder-Thompson and Katie C. Pawlitz.

On May 26, 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law Senate Bill 104 (“S.104”), significantly modifying Vermont law banning the provision by manufacturers of gifts to health care providers and requiring disclosure of certain allowable expenditures and gifts to health care providers (18 V.S.A. § 4631a and 18 V.S.A. § 4632). S.104 follows amendments made to the Vermont gift ban and disclosure law enacted just last year. This Client Alert includes a summary of the modifications pursuant to S.104. Except as otherwise noted, the changes are effective July 1, 2011. To read the full Alert, click here.

This is a follow-up to our previous Client Alert "Update on Medical Device Manufacturer Marketing Activities: State and Federal Restrictions and Reporting Requirements," which provides a brief overview of the existing state marketing laws that apply to device manufacturers, including recent changes to those laws, as well as federal reporting requirements under the ACA.

Update on Medical Device Manufacturer Marketing Activities: State and Federal Restrictions and Reporting Requirements

This post was written by Elizabeth B. Carder-Thompson and Katie C. Pawlitz.

States are increasingly imposing marketing restrictions on device manufacturers through laws that previously focused more specifically on pharmaceutical manufacturers. These laws affect compliance activities and relationships with providers, and create new reporting obligations. The impact is significant in that these state laws directly influence how companies conduct business and interact with customers, but implementation is complicated by the variations that exist between states.

Most significantly, under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), beginning March 31, 2013, and annually thereafter, device manufacturers must report payments to physicians and teaching hospitals during the preceding calendar year. This means manufacturers must be prepared to track payments in a comprehensive manner as of January 1, 2012. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) is now in the early stages of developing specific provisions to implement the new ACA provisions, with publication of proposed regulations to occur not later than October 1, 2011.

This Client Alert provides a brief overview of the existing state marketing laws that apply to device manufacturers, including recent changes to those laws, as well as federal reporting requirements under the ACA. Although the laws discussed may apply broadly to other entities, we refer in our Client Alert specifically to medical device manufacturers. To read the full Alert, click here.

FCC Proposes Tougher Rules on Telemarketing

This post was written by Robert H. Jackson.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has proposed changes to its Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) rules that would conform to the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”). The primary change in the regulations would affect the sending of prerecorded messages (a/k/a “robocalls”) by barring them even to existing customers without first obtaining prior written consent. At first blush, this seems routine, but because of differences in the FCC’s and FTC’s statutory jurisdiction, there are complicated implementation issues that could trap unsuspecting companies. Other key issues for the health care industry is whether the FCC should create an exemption for prerecorded messages that are subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and, if so, how such exemption should be implemented. For more information about these changes, please read our client alert written by Robert Jackson.

FTC (Revised) Endorsement Guides Go Into Effect

As noted by our colleagues at Legal Bytes, on December 1, 2009, the revised "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" released by the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") came into effect. Washington, D.C. partner John P. Feldman, an authority in advertising regulations and compliance, recently outlined some considerations every advertiser should take into account in his memo, "FTC Endorsement Guides (Revised) - Some Thoughts As They Become Effective." To read John's full analysis, click here.

Legal Bytes has been following new developments regarding the FTC's Guidelines since November 2008. In case you missed any earlier updates, you can refer back to them here: FTC Testimonial and Endorsement Guides Stimulate Industry Comment (March 2009); a presentation given at the University of Limerick on the subject entitled "Trust Me, I'm a Satisfied Customer: Testimonials & Endorsements in the United States," which you can download (If You Didn't Make It to Ireland ...); Ghostwriters: Medical Research or Paid Endorsers (and are they mutually exclusive?) and Rights of Publicity - Wake Up and Smell the Coffee! (both in August 2009); and FTC Releases Updated Endorsement & Testimonial Guidelines and Reed Smith Analysis of the New FTC Endorsement and Testimonial Guidelines (both in October 2009).