International Conferences: Pharmaceutical Codes Restricting Direct Payments and Travel


Today we posted an article on Europe’s medtech association’s recommendation that companies phase out direct sponsorship of conference attendees. The European pharmaceutical association EFPIA has not instituted such a ban, opting instead for a Disclosure Code that parallels many attributes of the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act. While EFPIA went the transparency route, a number of European countries have pharmaceutical codes of conduct that restrict certain payments to conference attendees.

Cross-border Code variations can make make sponsoring international conferences quite confusing. We have highlighted some unique code provisions related to sponsors paying for attendee travel and other direct payments below. Importantly, EFPIA states that for member companies sponsoring events, “funding is subject to the rules of the jurisdiction where such healthcare professional carries out his/her profession, as opposed to those in which the international event takes place.”


In Norway, as of January 1, 2015 it is not permitted to sponsor or pay for healthcare personnel to travel to or attend arrangements abroad held by third parties (See the Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Norway Rule 9.02). 


In Sweden, the rules, which also started January 1, 2015, are stricter: While pharmaceutical companies may finance the venue, speakers, study materials, and meals, “[t]ravel and accommodation for individual participants may not be paid for by pharmaceutical companies or requested by individual participants,” regardless where the conference is located. (See the Ethical Rules for the Pharmaceutical Industry in Sweden Article 4a)


Sponsorship of healthcare professionals for participating in scientific meetings such as congresses or symposia taking place in or outside Turkey is permitted, but only on a strict frequency limit (see Article 16 of the AIFD Code of Practice of Good Promotion and Good Communication). 

  • HCPs may benefit from the sponsorship of companies for three times in total within the same calendar year.
  • A single company may only provide participation sponsorship to a HCP for maximum two of these three sponsorships.
  • HCPs may use only one of these three sponsorships as a participant within the same calendar year for meetings held abroad.

“Sponsorship should be provided to the organization(s) holding the meeting and not directly to the individual participants,” states the Turkish Code.

Farmaindustria (Spain)

  • Makes binding decisions for all national member companies world wide
  • Mandatory review & approval for congress activities on Spanish soil (binding)

MDEON (Belgium)

The invitation of healthcare professionals to and the defrayment of the costs of participating in a scientific event that involves at least one overnight stay, as well as the related hospitality, are subject to an advance visa procedure. “[P]harmaceutical companies are obliged to obtain the visa from the Visas Bureau of the non-profit association Mdeon. View the FAQ page here for detail regarding under what circumstances a VISA is needed

It is also standard procedure in European countries to require senior management certification of international travel. For example, for the U.K., the ABPI states: “When certifying meetings which involve travel outside the UK, the signatories should ensure that all the arrangements are examined, including the programme, the venue, the reasons for using that venue, the intended audience, the anticipated cost and the nature of the hospitality and the like.”

Thank you to World Congress for their insight into international meetings. World Congress also notes that the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) will soon be releasing a complement to EFPIA e4ethics, which offers pharmaceutical companies useful information for sponsoring events in Europe. IFPMA will provide resources for international congresses world wide. 

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