The CHC’s mission is to promote and protect the benefit, for society and individual patient care, of the free
flow of healthcare information.
By John Kamp • Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication
While I have been talking to you for the past several months about what’s happening in Washington, it may be time to share a more about the Coalition for Healthcare Communication (CHC) – who we are, what we stand for, our passions, and some of the perennial big issues in which we engage in the nation’s Capital.
First, if you work for a medical marketing agency or medical publisher, we work for you. The Coalition comprises the big five holding companies with healthcare units – Omnicom, IPG, WPP, Havas and Publicis – and many independent agencies, plus the major medical publishers of journals and websites, including Elsevier, Springer, Slack, the New England Journal of Medicine, Everyday Health and WebMD. Our mission is to promote and protect, for society and individual patients, the benefit of the free flow of healthcare information.
We have three core beliefs:
1. Biopharma and device companies have a First Amendment right and a social responsibility to educate healthcare providers and patients about their products;
2. Self-regulation is the hallmark of great communication, education, and marketing; and
3. Communication, marketing, and education are just as important as R&D, and provide significant value to healthcare delivery.
We focus our energies on the following four issues:
1. Tax treatment of communication and marketing costs;
2. Transparency, “Sunshine,” conflict-of-interest, and collaboration issues;
3. Privacy proposals to limit communication with professionals and patients; and
4. FDA/HHS marketing enforcement and emerging policies.
Given these guideposts for the Coalition, several matters have come to the fore during this presidential campaign season and as a result of the ongoing policy environment. The most prominent of these is the dual promise by candidate Hillary Clinton to increase the regulation of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and disallow the tax deductibility of such costs. Working with our lobbying partners, particularly the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and The Advertising Coalition (TAC), we have faced and defeated this threat before. Back in 2006, the push to snuff DTC was led by Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. Henry Waxman of California.
Clearly, a White House attack on DTC would be formidable, but real change would have to pass both the House and the Senate, not a simple task in these days of a deeply divided Congress. First, a tax change that singles out medical marketing would face a significant First Amendment hurdle. Second, while the biopharma industry is under strict criticism these days, the advertising and media industries represented by TAC, the 4As and the CHC have been and continue to work the halls of Congress. Working together – and with your targeted calls, emails and letters – we can likely beat back the effort again.
So, given this background and the promise of future fights, you might fairly ask what the CHC has done for you lately. Three major victories stand out:
1. The Supreme Court victory in IMS v. Sorrell protects aggressive, innovative medical marketing and expands industry First Amendment rights. It protects the use of big data by medical marketers and set up the successful appeal of a detail man who was about to be jailed for truthful, but off-label, communication to a doctor, in the federal appeals decision US. V Caronia. Indeed, last year it set up successful challenges to off-label regulations from FDA by Amarin and Pacira. These decisions:
a. Slow industry prosecutions of off-label marketing;
b. Undermine FDA’s off-label marketing ban; and
c. Eventually will expand the scope of legal off-label marketing.
2. The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) passed without Rx marketing taxation or increased marketing regulation. The CHC and industry partners defeated three major proposals to eliminate tax deductibility of medical communication and marketing costs.
3. CHC coordinated actions to reduce the scope of the “Sunshine Act.”
a. CHC and industry partners limited the breadth and scope of the proposed Sunshine provisions, including exclusion from reporting of grants in support of certified continued medical education.
b. Currently, CHC is coordinating efforts to dampen enforcement of the Sunshine Act, which include excluding reporting of costs of textbooks and journal reprints. Such a provision is part of the House-passed FDA bill, the 21st Century Cures Act.
So, yes, there is plenty to do to protect our business and the public health in Washington. We have done much of it before – in the courts, at FDA and on Capitol Hill – and we can do it again. But we can do it only with your help and cooperation, especially if we come to a pitched battle over the consumer communication issues in the next Congress.
We know the stakes are high and we are ramping up our efforts in tandem with our colleagues. Stay tuned, and be ready to help with communications to your member of Congress and Senators if and when the time comes. The most important message we need to convey is the value of communication and how much it benefits patients. You are the professionals, the best ones to convey that message. medadnews