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What the Code means for you...

Following the PMCPA's publication of its informal guidance on digital communications, we asked key digital experts, what it really means for them... and for you

During last week's Code of Practice Awareness Week, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) held various meetings and events across the UK promoting the changes to the Code, which come into effect from May 1, 2011. 

Coinciding with the awareness week, the PMCPA published 'informal guidance' on digital communications, providing advice to pharmaceutical industry professionals about communicating online.

An e-learning module for the Code, designed to help healthcare professionals understand the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry's self-regulation practices was also launched last week.

The pharmaceutical industry has been awaiting guidance on digital engagement for some time. Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delayed its much-anticipated draft guidance on social media, citing the complicated nature of the issue and the limited time and money at its disposal.


PMLiVE asked people working both with and within the pharma industry what they thought about the PMCPA's informal guidance:


"People have been asking for digital guidance for a while. The code already contains information regarding communication/engagement with healthcare professionals and the public, however people often fail to interpret it with regards to digital and therefore want definitive answers which isn't necessarily a good thing.

I think the guidance provides the right balance of offering the PMCPAs thoughts and position, however allowing companies their interpretation. If the guidance became too comprehensive, people may find that future innovations in digital may be excluded to them and that will frustrate companies looking to utilise new and exciting opportunities and technologies."

Kai Gait, digital commerce marketing manager, GlaxoSmithKline


"UK pharma companies are more fortunate than their US and European counterparts in having these sensible and pragmatic guidelines. Organisations that have been slow to embrace social media now have a framework to work in. By placing these guidelines in the context of the existing Code, the PMCPA has avoided the trap of them becoming obsolete every few months. 

As ever, if a company has clarified its INTENT behind any digital engagement programme, and that intent is within the spirit and substance of the Code, then it will be able to find a way forward. The skills and processes may still need to be developed however, and each company needs to have a robust programme built on the cornerstones of Leadership, Governance, Strategy and Implementation." 

Mat Phillips, founder, Neovoca


"Having waited over a year for the new code FAQs, clients and their medics are still unsure about the power that digital media has to offer them. I think more marketers within the pharma companies still want further educating on how digital can work for them and the boundaries imposed, which currently are fairly speculative.  

It's a shame they are not more black and white on what you can and cannot do, as with 150 million people across Europe going online for healthcare information on a regular basis, we really need to embrace it. With more HCPs using social media it's a great way to inform them in a non-intrusive way."

Lyn Wallace, director, Wallace HCL


What do you think of the PMPCA's guidance? 
Are the guidelines a good thing and are they comprehensive enough? 
Do they give you the reassurance you need to engage online?

Tell us what you think – email 

15th April 2011


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