Pharma meetings, which date back as a practice to the beginnings of the modern health care industry, have become the subject of controversy in recent times. Not-for-profit organizations, consumer groups, regulators, and some members of the medical fraternity, as well, question the lavish hospitality that seems to be on offer at events with little technical content or information value. Criticism of pharma meetings is not without basis, for sponsors are known to conduct events that seek to entertain rather than to provide scientific inputs. Bare skeletons of research results seem to be used as facades to regale doctors with sumptuous food and drink. The very brief durations of actual conference and discussions do not appear to justify accommodating participants overnight in luxury hotels. The very choices of expensive resorts and places of grandiose entertainment as venues for pharma meetings seem contrived and inappropriate for serious deliberations on matters of patient wellness. Could it be that the medium of pharma meetings has been so abused that they no longer provide returns on investment for professionally run sponsor organizations? Some influential sections of general society and key medical institutions certainly seem to think so, and indirectly or even actively discourage the medical fraternity from continuing to participate in pharma meetings.
Pharma meetings are essential in communication terms. Some doctors are so beset by emergencies that they cannot set aside during duty hours for representatives from the industry. Others work in laboratories and theatres without any possibilities to make structured presentations. Cutting edge research findings have to be presented by senior industry personnel and by practicing doctors, who cannot be expected to make personal and individual calls on every entry in a customer list. Peer interaction adds value to pharma meetings, and it is invaluable to bring experts from distant sites to a common forum. The health care industry is marked by rapid technological developments, and pharma meetings are effective ways of continuing medical education
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. Epidemics, changes in the incidence of public health conditions, and adverse findings about established drugs, are examples of emergency communication needs, which are best met by pharma meetings. Everyone from a budding medical intern to the most accomplished consultant can benefit from pharma meetings. There is no cost-effective substitute to pharma meetings for the best companies in the industry, and all stake holders gain from them. Every serious player in the industry has to conduct pharma meetings regularly, though this has to be done with due discretion.
The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) have laid down comprehensive guidelines on how to arrange and to conduct pharma meetings. Adherence to these codes can help sponsors gain maximum mileage from investments in pharma meetings. They not only cost less, but gain more goodwill and produce results, as well. Independent observers and pressure groups looking in on such pharma meetings will have nothing about which they can protest, and the best doctors will not hesitate to take part. PMCPA and ABPI standards for pharma meetings relate to choice of venues, appropriate catering, and hospitality, as well as to the kinds of information materials and aids which may be distributed amongst participants. The basic objective is to ensure that the facilities for participating doctors are proportional to the technical value and dimensions of information that is to be imparted.
Pharma meetings that meet the ethical requirements of PMCPA and ABPI require professional organization. Sponsors may require anything from a brief and local event, to an international conference involving overnight stay by delegates. It is best to develop standard operating procedures, so that pharma meetings of all types can be set up quickly and conducted smoothly, as well. Some organizations specialize in pharma meetings and have internal checks to ensure compliance with PMCPA and ABPI requirements. It helps if experienced industry experts review the operating procedures and control systems, and subsequently certify professionally organizations as being able to arrange pharma meetings to the best global standards.
Pharma meetings, conducted judiciously, produce marvelous results in terms of brand awareness. They also make great contributions to images of sponsors, and help to secure the trust of the medical community. They produce durable returns and help companies reach out to large audiences spread over wide areas quickly and in a persuasive manner. Every effort to conduct pharma meetings in a becoming manner pays handsome dividends. Not every sponsor would like to build the extensive infrastructure needed to ensure compliance with PMCPA and ABPI conditions, so certified organizations are usually the best choice for comprehensive service with just a telephone call. It does not matter whether you represent an industry leader with a mega event in mind, or a new entrant wanting to test the waters with a small group of General Practitioners, professionally managed pharma meetings can work wonders for you!
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