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Items at conferences and exhibition stands


​Sponsorship of items at conferences

Can a pharmaceutical company sponsor conference lanyards, badges and bags etc by paying the organiser for them and in return getting the company name on the items?

No.  Clauses 18.1 and 18.3 of the Code limit what items pharmaceutical companies can provide to health professionals and other relevant decision makers at conferences and the items in question fall outside that limit.

Items in conference bags 

Can pharmaceutical companies give notepads, pens and pencils to conference organisers for them to put in conference bags?

Yes, notebooks, pens and pencils are the only items that can be provided to health professionals and other relevant decision makers for them to keep and then only at bona fide meetings.  Such items included in conference bags at third party organised meetings may not bear the name of the donor company nor the name of any medicine or any information about medicines.  The total cost of the items provided to an individual recipient must not exceed £6, excluding VAT.  The perceived value to the recipient must be similar. Given the spirit of Clause 18.3 companies should ensure that no individual attendee will receive more than one notepad and one pen.
Notebooks, pens and pencils provided at company organised meetings may bear the name of the donor company but not the name of any medicine or any information about medicines.

Items and activities at exhibition stands

Can a pharmaceutical company distribute notebooks, pens and pencils from an exhibition stand?

No.  An exhibition stand is not a bona fide meeting as meant by the supplementary information to Clause 18.3​.  In addition, at any one meeting an individual health professional can only receive notebooks, pens or pencils to a combined total cost of no more than £6, excluding VAT.  It would be difficult for a company to distribute such items from an exhibition stand and ensure that this limit was not exceeded.  The provision of notebooks, pen and pencils could be done via conference bags – see above.  The spirit of the Code is that pharmaceutical companies should not distribute any items, other than promotional or educational literature, from exhibition stands.

Can memory sticks be given out from exhibition stands?

Inexpensive memory sticks containing educational or promotional material can be given to health professionals.  The storage capacity has to be commensurate with the amount of data to be stored.  They can bear a company name but should not bear the name of any medicine.
Memory sticks bearing a company name would not be viewed as disguised promotion.  However, the fact that a memory stick includes promotional material should be made clear to the recipient.  The memory stick could have ‘Promotional material from [company name]’ printed on it.  In addition when using the memory stick it would be preferable if it first opened a page making the contents and nature of the contents clear. 
Memory sticks as described above can be given out from exhibition stands.

Can a pharmaceutical company put an interactive programme on an exhibition stand that requires an attendee to make a series of judgements and choices regarding a treatment pathway?  When would such a programme become a quiz, if it was not one already?

Although such a programme may be regarded as simply educational material, depending on its content it could also be considered to be a quiz and thus subject to the requirements relating to quizzes in the supplementary information to Clause 18.1.  Any assessment or evaluation of the delegates’ decisions may mean that the interactive programme is a quiz.
A quiz would be acceptable if it related to the subject matter of the meeting and formed part of the meeting’s formal proceedings.  Exhibition stands are not considered to be a formal part of a meeting’s proceedings.

Can refreshments be provided from exhibition stands and, if so, what would be appropriate?

The Code allows the provision of hospitality at scientific meetings and the like and there is no reason why this should not be offered from an exhibition stand.  Obviously companies would have to be certain that the hospitality overall complied with the Code and that any hospitality provided from an exhibition stand was subsistence only and not at a level such as to induce a delegate to visit the stand.  In the Authority’s view companies should provide no more than non-alcoholic beverages, such as tea, coffee and water, and very limited quantities of sweets, biscuits or fruit.  The Authority does not consider that hot dogs, ice-cream, waffles, etc should be provided at exhibition stands.

Items with clinical trial materials

Can a pharmaceutical company provide notepads, pens and pencils with clinical trial materials?  If so, can they bear the name of the trial as well as, or instead of, the company name?

Notepads, pens and pencils can be provided with clinical trial materials.  They should not be provided on an ad hoc basis.  It could be argued that such materials are not promotional because they are not provided for a promotional purpose.  They must not be provided by a representative.  Bearing in mind the spirit of the Code, it might be best to follow Clause 18.3​.  Thus the notebooks, pens and pencils should not bear the name of the trial but could bear the name of the company providing them.  They should not bear the name of a medicine or any information about medicines.  The total cost of the items provided to an individual recipient must not exceed £6, excluding VAT.  The perceived value to the recipient must be similar.


Can medical and educational goods and services (MEGS) be offered from exhibition stands?

MEGS cannot be offered from or distributed from promotional exhibition stands as they must not be linked to the promotion of a particular product.  In addition it might be difficult to ensure that MEGS requested from exhibition stands were not given to individuals for their personal benefit.