As of January 1, 2021, the Association for Voluntary Self-Monitoring of the Pharmaceutical Industry e. V. (FSA) has amended its Code of Conduct on the Interaction with Healthcare Professionals (FSA Code of Conduct Healthcare Professionals) regarding the financial support of external training events (section 20 (5)). It is now expressly stipulated that financial support for external events may also be inadmissible if the conference venue was not selected on the basis of objective criteria. In the past, this already applied to the conference hotel: this must also be selected solely on objective grounds.
In addition, since the beginning of this year, following an amendment to the guidelines of the FSA Board of Management (sections 12 and 12a), the assessment of whether the selection was made solely on the basis of objective criteria and whether there is no decisive influential incentive effect depends on how the general public assesses the conference venue and hotel.
As a rule, factual aspects are not present in the case of a high recreational value, a well-known entertainment value or the extravagance of the conference venue or hotel; instead, an “incentive effect” is to be assumed in this case.
In a decision published on 15 January 2021, the Arbitration Board of the FSA has now denied an incentive effect, since in the specific case the contact of the participants with the elements or facilities of the conference venue, which could possibly constitute an extraneous incentive, was “minimized to the greatest possible extent”. In the opinion of the Arbitration Board, the decisive factor was that the participants did not actually come into contact with the “adventure world” in which the conference venue was located, or at most only to a minor extent.
At the same time, the Arbitration Board pointed out that at the time of the decision, the aforementioned paragraphs 12 and 12a of the Guidelines (i.e. the assessment based on the opinion of the general public) were not yet applicable. It therefore remains open whether the decision would have been different in this case.
Member companies of the FSA should therefore check how third parties who do not belong to the professional circles addressed would assess the conference venue and location for all invitations to profession-related scientific (further training) events and the sponsoring of such events.