In an extension of its recently passed prohibition against the acceptance of meals, gifts, samples and other items from pharmaceutical representatives, UC Davis Health System has approved a policy banning its employees from accepting gifts from any vendor.
Effective July 1, the new policy defines a vendor as "any representative or distributor of a manufacturer or company who visits for the purpose of soliciting, marketing or distributing products or information regarding the use of medications, products, equipment and/or services."
"Gifts," as defined by the policy, include payments, free or discounted items, medical samples for personal use, food and travel. Specific examples are pens, notepads, textbooks, meals and payment for attendance at a meeting.
"We must avoid the appearance of favoritism in all of our dealings on behalf of the university," said Allan D. Siefkin, Chief Compliance Officer for UC Davis Health System. "Research has shown that certain health-care vendor activities, such as providing gifts, even of nominal value, may affect behavior and give the appearance of favoritism."
The prohibition against accepting gifts applies to all employees, even those not in a position to make purchasing or contracting decisions.
The policy includes some exclusions to its definition of a gift. Among them are items provided for a discount or free as part of a university contract, and prizes or awards from genuine competitions, such as competitive research grants. Other exemptions are free admission, refreshments and similar, non-monetary benefits provided to an individual during a training session for the purpose of training that individual on the vendor's product. An individual would be allowed to accept the same kind of nominal benefits at an entire event in which he or she gives a speech, participates in a panel or seminar, or provides a similar service.
The policy allows vendors to provide gifts that support the mission of the university, such as providing food for conferences, payment for educational travel and samples for evaluation, but the Department of Health Sciences Advancement is responsible for processing these gifts. For example, to provide free food or pay for educational travel, vendors may donate funds to a unit of the university, via Health Sciences Advancement, to support meetings. Continuing Medical Education funds will be managed according to national continuing education accrediting body conflict-of-interest standards, even when the meetings are not accredited continuing education programs.
Vendors are still allowed to make sales calls under the new policy, but unsolicited, on-site visits are not permitted. Sales calls may be made only at the invitation of appropriate university personnel or after an appointment has been made. On-site sales calls must occur only in non-patient-care areas. Exceptions are allowed when it is determined that there is a compelling need for the visit to occur in a patient-care area.
For visits in patient-care areas, the vendor must comply with patient privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Vendors may not access patient information during visits unless the patient has given written authorization to do so.
Late last year, the health system approved a new policy that bans employees and students from accepting free drug samples, food, beverages, pens, notepads and other marketing items from representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers. It also bans sales representatives from serving in preceptorships at the health system. Preceptor-ships allow drug company employees, for a fee, to accompany doctors during patient visits, providing the opportunity for the representatives to deepen their relationships with physicians.
The policy on pharmaceutical marketing also takes effect July 1.