New York – Survey providers and end users of survey work on the pharmaceutical industry should keep an eye open for legal restrictions on incentives offered to survey participants. Given the potential conflicts of interests arising from compensation granted through survey work, state laws are explicitly prohibiting certain kinds of incentives.
Such is the case in the state of Minnesota where the 2008 Statute 151.461 restricts the compensation that physicians can receive from participating in survey work. The statute establishes:
“It is unlawful for any manufacturer or wholesale drug distributor, or any agent thereof, to offer or give any gift of value to a practitioner.”
The statute expressly determines what kinds of compensation are not considered gifts of value. The list of gifts that can be offered to practitioners include “compensation for the substantial professional services of a practitioner in connection with a genuine research project.”
Although the law does not define the terms “substantial professional services” or “genuine research project,” it might refer to the difference between research and marketing activities. “Genuine research,” therefore, allows for compensation to surveyed practitioners.
Investors conducting or commissioning research on the pharmaceutical industry through survey work on practitioners, might be exempt from the prohibition on Statute 151.461 given that they are not directly related to the pharmaceutical firms. Informal conversations with executives at CASRO, the Council of the American Survey Research Organizations, revealed that they believe this statute does not affect research by investors for the time being.
Nevertheless, the existence of this statute indicates that regulators are paying close attention to the conflicts of interest involved in the existing survey compensation model. Expert networks, survey firms, and panels using incentives for physicians must be especially cautious in their incentives mechanisms. Survey work end-users, such as investors, should also monitor these incentives structures as a measure to guarantee the accuracy of the study and the compliance of the whole research process.
CASRO provides insight and information on the Minnesota Statute. It also offers advice to its members as how to better comply with the law. For more information on this regard, contact CASRO’s president, Diane Bowers. Phone: 631-928-6954.