Cephalon Scandal Shows Healthcare Non-Compliance in Action


60 Minutes recently released a report about how pharmaceutical executives bribed doctors to prescribe dangerous fentanyl drugs.  This investigation illustrates the importance of medical meeting planners reporting transfers of values and remaining compliant with state-to-state regulations, with the intent of decreasing the likelihood of physicians promoting deadly drugs at medical conferences and, ultimately, prescribing them to patients.

Cephalon is one Big Pharma company that faced significant legal issues due to their methodology in promoting and selling the drug to vulnerable physicians.  Actiq, a fast-acting fentanyl drug taken in the form of a lollipop, was just one drug misleadingly sold to physicians for patient prescriptions by Big Pharma sales representatives.

According to internal documentation 60 minutes obtained from Cephalon, it was found that “{Cephalon} funded advocacy groups to promote opioids; spread deceptive information about addiction and offered incentives for doctors to prescribe opioids, including medical education programs, conference junkets, free dining and drinking and lucrative peer to peer speaking engagements.”

This corporate bribery, funded by Cephalon, illustrates how physicians adapt a strong, favorable bias towards a drug through free incentives and leisure.  As medical meeting planners plan large medical conferences and conventions, it is essential that they abide by compliance regulations to ensure physicians are not “bought” into using a particular drug, especially one that would continue to fuel the opioid epidemic.

Greg Tremaglio, the first federal agent that caught onto this illegal activity, told 60 minutes, “We’re just calling it what it is. Instead of bribing doctors, we’re calling it educational consulting, medical education program, fancy words.”  This is where compliance becomes crucial.

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Breaking the Code to Healthcare Compliance

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Breaking the Code – 4th Edition, written by Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC, gives meeting planners foundational knowledge about reporting transparency and navigating the ever-changing, differing compliance regulations across each state.  These varying codes of compliance were put in place to mitigate the occurrence of circumstances similar to Cephalons.

“If there is one word that will dominate the landscape of the healthcare industry in the coming years it is “compliance.” If you want to have a full understanding of the ever-changing landscape of governmental regulations, then this is the book for you.” 

– David Peckinpaugh, CMP, President / Maritz Travel Company.

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