September 2, 2021

On Speakers Programs and PhRMA’s Updated Ethics Code

Man standing on a stage speaking

Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) “updated and enhanced” its voluntary code of ethics regarding appropriate interactions between the drug industry and U.S. healthcare professionals (HCPs) while marketing pharma products, including speaker programs. Regarding these programs, the updated code states that their purpose should be to “present substantive educational information designed to help address a bona fide educational need among attendees, taking into account recent substantive changes in relevant information (e.g., new medical or scientific information or a new FDA-approved indication for the product) or the importance of the availability of such educational programming.” The code goes into effect on January 1, 2022 and provides guidance on the following:

  • The use of high-end venues
  • Appropriate cost for meals and the provision of alcohol
  • Who should attend; appropriateness of repeat attendance
  • How companies procure and retain speakers
  • Compensation and reimbursement for travel expenses
  • Speaker training 

What’s missing from PhRMA’s code update, however, is guidance on virtual programs, which were widely implemented in 2020 in response to the pandemic, and which will likely continue into the future.

Where Intouch Stands
Our goal has always been to provide not only substantive but memorable and impactful speaker programs that show measurable ROI in the form of better experiences and outcomes for HCPs and patients. We do this in a number of ways, including creating presentations with case-based, modular content and embedded interactivity tailored not only to physicians but also nurses and nurse practitioners.

What our audiences want is time – time is more valuable than a fancy dinner. Further, we know that “high-end venues” don’t necessarily translate into providing the best educational experience, so we employ our omnichannel expertise to meet our customers on their turf with personalized experiences that provide better reach, deeper engagement, and ultimately better care for patients.

To learn more about how Intouch approaches medical communications, visit

Joe Wellington, MD, is SVP, Managing Director, Head of Medical at Intouch Group.