FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions 

19th edition, 2019

Section 4 - Methods of Promotion to Healthcare Professionals
   
1.
Is a gimmick (promotional item) considered a "reminder promotion"?
Per Section 2.1 of the revised Code of Practice, gimmicks and reminder promotions are two different types of promotional categories. A "reminder promotion" is a short advertisement targeting HCPs containing no more than the brand and generic names, a simple statement of indication(s) to designate the therapeutic category of the product, the company name, and the company contact information. A gimmick, which is a type of "promotional item," is a non-monetary item given for a promotional purpose (which does not include "promotional materials"). For details on use of promotional items, please refer to Section 6.2 of the Code.

Examples of promotional items are pens, notepads, USB drives, T-shirts and mugs, etc.
An example of promotional materials is a detailing aid.
   
2.
Do we need to include all the information listed under section 4.1 for "patient education material" that is distributed by HCPs to patients?
Patient education material is classified as "informational or educational items" under Section 6.3 of the Code. These materials should not be regarded as promotional materials under Section 4.1 even if they are distributed by HCPs to patients. Promotional material is issued for promotional purposes of the medicinal products. Disease awareness / patient education material should not be used similarly as product promotional materials.
   
Section 5.1 Symposia, congress and other communication means
   
1.
Section 5.1(b) of the Code states, "The fact of sponsorship by the company should be clearly stated in advance, at the meeting and in any proceeding." What should the Company do if the 3rd party organiser of the meeting (e.g., medical society) does not allow the Company to state its sponsorship? Can the Company continue to support this event?
The involvement of a company in a scientific event should be clearly indicated in order to be transparent to the participants. Companies should carefully assess whether sponsorship / support are appropriate when disclosure of identity or involvement cannot be done.
   
2.
Can a company present or show investigational molecule information or drug development pipeline information in the exhibition booth? Does the requirement stated in 5.1(c) apply to "Sales & Marketing" booth only?
The disclosure of drug development pipeline information is not acceptable at Sales and Marketing booths or in a promotional context; however, drug development pipeline information, limited to molecular names, therapeutic areas, and clinical trial status (e.g., Phase 1, 2, 3), is not considered to be scientific information and can be proactively shared at a medical booth. No pharmaceutical product should be promoted in Hong Kong or Macau unless the marketing approval has been granted. The display of unapproved drug information in an exhibition booth in a congress is prohibited if it is intended for promotional purposes. The Code is not intended to restrict or limit the dissemination of investigational findings in scientific conferences nor media communication. Companies should assess the intention of such investigational information when displaying it in any exhibition booth funded by the companies, and under no circumstances should companies promote off label use of pharmaceutical products.
   
Section 5.2 Travel, Venue and Accommodation
   
1.
What is the meaning of standard economy class? Can we arrange upgradable economy class air ticket when sponsoring healthcare professionals (travel time < 5 hours)?
Standard economy class is any seat located within economy class of an airplane, for example premium economy, business class and first class are regarded as outside of standard economy class by definition. The Code has not specified the booking class within standard economy class and the Companies should practice sound judgment.
   
2.
Is standard economy class a mandatory if the one-way flight time is more than 5 hours? What does "prioritized consideration" mean?
If the one-way flight time exceeds 5 hours, standard economy class is not the mandatory travel class but it should be considered first when sponsoring HCPs to such event.
   
3.
Is there any exception to offer business class or above to healthcare professionals with health issue to attend events (travel time < 5 hours)?
Standard economy class is mandatory when sponsoring an HCP to attend an event with one-way flight time less than 5 hours. HCP's health status should be carefully considered by the Company whether long haul flight is manageable by the HCP.
   
4.
How should the Companies define lavish or extravagant venue?
According to IFPMA Note for Guidance on Sponsorship of Events and Meetings, the venue should be conducive to the scientific and educational purpose of the meeting. The criteria to consider when assessing the appropriateness of a venue of an event (non-exhaustive) include:
  • The venue has the necessary business and technical facilities to accommodate the meeting and its participants.
  • The meeting facilities should only be accessible to intended audience.
  • In the case of cities that are both major scientific or business centres and locations highly desirable for tourists, it is important to select venues that are away from the main tourist spots.
  • The venue must not be renowned for its entertainment, sports, leisure or vacation facilities (e.g., golf clubs, health spas, Beach /River/ Lake side locations, or casinos).
  • The venue provides safe & secure accommodation when considering the chosen location.
  • The venue must not be lavish even if the cost is low compared to other venues (e.g., ranking by the tourism department of the country and/or the average ranking by travel agencies can help with this assessment).
The IFPMA note serves as guidance for the Companies and the Companies should apply their own judgement to determine if the venue is deemed appropriate.
   
5.
If the event is organized by a 3rd party in a lavish venue and with scientific/educational objectives, is it appropriate for the Companies to sponsor it?
No, the Code is also applicable to those events organized by third parties (e.g., medical societies), and the Company should follow the guidelines in section 5 to consider whether support or sponsorship deem appropriate.
   
6.
What other specific comment or evaluation process HKAPI can provide to its member companies to stream line the interpretation of appropriate venue for event organized by a 3rd party?
According to IFPMA Note for Guidance on Sponsorship of Events and Meetings, the venue is conducive to the scientific and educational purpose of the meeting. The criteria to consider when assessing the appropriateness of a venue of an event (non-exhaustive) include:
  • The venue has the necessary business and technical facilities to accommodate the meeting and its participants.
  • The meeting facilities should only be accessible to intended audience.
  • In the case of cities that are both major scientific or business centres and locations highly desirable for tourists, it is important to select venues that are away from the main tourist spots.
  • The venue must not be renowned for its entertainment, sports, leisure or vacation facilities (e.g., golf clubs, health spas, Beach /River/ Lake side locations, or casinos).
  • The venue provides safe & secure accommodation when considering the chosen location.
  • The venue must not be lavish even if the cost is low compared to other venues (e.g., ranking by the tourism department of the country and/or the average ranking by travel agencies can help with this assessment).
The IFPMA note serves as guidance for the Companies and the Companies should apply their own judgement to determine if the venue is deemed appropriate.
   
Section 5.4 Fees for Services
   
1.
In case the healthcare professional is engaged for permitted services and no honorarium is provided, does a written contract or agreement still require?
It is recommended that agreement or written contract be signed between the Company and the HCP which specifies the nature of the service to be provided and the basis of any payment involved.
   
2.
How should the selection criteria and process be documented when identifying a speaker for an educational event?
The criteria for selecting consultants must be directly related to the identified need and the consultants must have the expertise necessary to provide the service. The HCP's curriculum vitae or bibliography can be used as a reference when considering the selection criteria. The Company should have an internal process in place to identify and approve the engagement of an HCP as a speaker for an educational event.
   
Section 6 Promotional Items, Educational Items and Items of Medical Utility
   
1.
Section 6.2 of the Code prohibits promotional items for prescription-only medicines. Does this also apply to the provision of pens and notepads in the context of company organized or third-party events?
No, pens and notepads can be provided to HCPs in the context of company organized events for the purpose of taking notes during the meeting, but they must not bear the name of any medicine but may bear the name of the company providing them. In addition they must be of minimal value and only the necessary quantity for the purpose of the event are distributed. In third party organized events, the only time that company branded pens and notepads can be provided by the company is exclusively to the participants of a company-organized satellite meeting or symposium that takes place at the third party event.
   
2.
Some conference sponsorship packages include pens, conference attendee bags, and other promotional items with the sponsoring company logo on them. Is this still acceptable?
No, even though the third party conference organizer is producing the promotional items and not the company itself, member companies may no longer distribute or sponsor company-branded conference pens, notepads, conference attendee bags, or other promotional items at third party events. If a conference sponsorship includes these types of promotional items, the sponsoring company must indicate that while the conference organizers can still use the sponsorship to pay for these types of items, the items cannot include sponsor companies' logos. Alternatively, sponsor company logos can be displayed on conference banners/signage and in conference programs for transparency to disclose company sponsorship.
   
3.
What are examples of items of medical utility which offset business practices?
Items such as stethoscopes, surgical gloves, blood pressure monitors and needles are examples of routine business expenses, and they are expected to be supplied by the HCPs themselves or their employers.
   
4.
What are examples of informational or educational items?
For example, memory sticks pre-loaded with educational or informational data may be appropriate if the storage capacity is commensurate with the materials provided, whereas tablet computers may have independent value to a HCP and must not be provided, even if they could also be used to deliver education to patients.
   
Section 8 Samples
   
1.
What should be sample packs used for?
Sample packs should only be used to familiarize doctors with the medicine in clinical practice. It is not necessarily used to assess medicine's clinical profile including its efficacy and safety result and / or patient experience. Medicine's clinical profile and patient's experience are to be addressed through clinical research trials and doctors are encouraged to refer to the published clinical data for such information.
   
2.
Can samples be offered to a lapsed account again?
The sampling policy is not applied retrospectively. After the first delivery of sample(s) on or after April 1st 2017, any inactive or lapsed accounts subsequent to the maximum of 6-month sample distribution limit should not be offered sample(s) again.
   
3.
Is Macau in scope of the Section 8 sampling requirements?
No, Macau is currently out of scope of the Section 8 sample policy, but will be evaluated at a later date.
   
4.
Is trade sector included?
Sampling is for familiarization of the product by the doctors only. Hence, drug sampling in trade sector would not be deemed serving the purpose and not allowed. Over the counter product samples and non-drug samples (e.g., devices) are out of scope.

Although over the counter product samples and non-drug samples are out of scope under this sampling policy, member companies should apply the same principles around managing the perception of inducement when offering these samples to customers.
   
5.
Are third parties assigned by member companies covered in this Code of Practice update?
Yes. This is the same as for other Code clauses, where member companies are responsible for ensuring that their third parties act in accordance with the Code.
   
6.
What happens if the 6-month sampling period ends in a hospital during the 1st pre-DAC submission and the DAC has NOT yet approved the medicine?
Samples as defined in the Code are intended for the doctors' familiarization of the drug. They are not to be used to supply product indefinitely pre-DAC approval. According to CPO, HA already requires that doctors alert patients that their prescribed sample drugs could be stopped and that patients may need to switch drugs or purchase the medicines themselves. It is also important that companies remind doctors so that patients are adequately informed about these risks, and also consider this possible situation when deciding whether or not to provide samples in the first place.
   
7.
Doctors and colleagues may comment that placing a limit on samples may reduce access of medicines to patients?
Samples are not to be used as an access solution for patients. The sole purpose of a sample is for the doctors' familiarization with the drug. Such practice can already be considered in breach of the Code prior to this update, since the volume of samples should be limited. Companies can still provide access to medicines for patients via patient access programs.
   
8.
Can different departments in hospitals have different timelines?
Companies should make a reasonable decision based on:
  • HKAPI Code of Practice Section 8
  • Whether the doctor has previous experience with the medicine
  • Whether the doctor has accessibility of the medicine now
  • Whether the sample will lead to potential inducement
   
9.
Can different indications have different timeline?
A sample is meant to familiarize a doctor with a medicine only. After the doctor has started purchasing the medicine, they have had sufficient time to familiarize him/herself with its use. Thus no further samples should be provided for the purpose of familiarizing the doctor with the use of a medicine for a different indication alone. However, sampling of new formulations, preparations or major differences in dosage within the same department or account is allowed.

Companies should carefully assess whether the sample will lead to potential inducement.
   
10.
Is the principle account based (one clinic account code based on distributor list) or individual doctor based, or clinic based?
Sample is generally recommended to be given based on individual account; however companies should make a reasonable decision based on:
  • HKAPI Code of Practice Section 8
  • Whether the doctor has previous experience with the medicine
  • Whether the doctor has accessibility of the medicine now
  • Whether the sample will lead to potential inducement
   
11.
How the 6-months period is clocked? Would existing sampling practice be impacted?
6-months period will be counted from 1st supply of sample on or after 1 Apr 2017. It will only be counted prospectively starting from effective date.
   
12.
What's the requirement for tracking system?
Member companies need to set up an internal control system and procedures for sampling approval and tracking to comply with the Code effectively, as mentioned in Section 3.6 of the Code.
   
13.
Do a non-member company need to comply with the Code? Will it reduce the competitiveness of our members?
Samples are for physicians' familiarization with medicines, and the amount sampled should not be linked in any way to the member company's competitiveness.

The spirit of the sampling policy is to align the industry and reduce our risk of any potential perception of samples being an inducement to prescribe, administer or recommend particular medicines. It is not currently mandatory for non-member companies to adopt this change, however we will encourage all non-member companies to adhere to the principles outlined in the Code . In this case, the use of samples as an inducement to prescribe a medicine would be considered highly questionable practice by the public and exposes companies and the doctors to serious reputational risk. We will continue to educate our key stakeholders on our Code and the rationale behind this clause. For example, the Hospital Authority has been requested to change their own policy on sampling to adopt the change. HKAPI will also notify the IFPMA on the change of the Code, for those non-HKAPI members but IFPMA members, they will be notified by their headquarters.
   
14.
What if a member company is found to be in breach of the sampling policy?
Any member company found to be in breach of this policy will be subject to the same penalties outlined in our Code . Refer to Section 14 of the Code.
   
15.
How will we communicate the Code of Practice changes to our external stakeholders?
The Ethics and Compliance Taskforce has been communicating these changes to key external stakeholders for many months. HKAPI has already shared the revised sample policy with key stakeholders and this engagement will be continued. All member companies should also play a role in the communication of the revised sample policy.
   
16.
When will the effective date for no-sample after purchase?
1st April 2017 - there is no grace period for implementation. Companies are expected to fully align their internal processes accordingly.
   
17.
If HA/private hospital has purchased the product as named patient item for specific patient use, will it count as purchased account and not allow for sample?
If the product is purchased as named patient item (e.g., purchased before drug registration or as a non-formulary item for specific patient use), the provision of sample(s) is still allowed. However, members are recommended to keep proper justification as to why further familiarization of the doctor with the new medicine is warranted and the sample arrangement is subject to hospitals' policies.
   
18.
Will the sample invoice date be used instead of delivery date? It's more difficult to record the delivery date/ or risk to be delayed due to holiday?
The principle of the sampling policy is based on delivery date (i.e., the date from which the doctor has the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the medicine). Member companies could establish the internal control by recording the invoice date and ensuring the delivery date of last sample pack is within 6 months. For example, company can use the invoice date for the internal record and set the last invoice date 7 days before delivery deadline to ensure enough time for delivery.
   
Section 9 - Grants & Donations
   
1.
How details should the purpose be addressed for the grants or donations to HCO or Medical Society?
The HCO or medical society should provide all the necessary information to the Company to evaluate whether it is legitimate to support the event in which clear benefit to public institutions or patients can be demonstrated. Grants and donations should not be provided to subsidize routine activities or operation of any medical practice and the amount should be proportionate to the purpose without unnecessary perception of excess and unreasonable.
   
2.
In case the healthcare professional is engaged for permitted services with honorarium provided, the healthcare professional asks the Company to donate the honorarium to another organization (e.g., university, charity, medical society or patient group, etc.), is it appropriate for the Company to support the donation?
The decision should be based on the Company's internal policy. Grants and donations to HCOs or Medical Societies shall not be made with the intention of receiving in exchange any direct benefit or preferential treatment, of obtaining or retaining business or a commercial advantage.
   
Section 12 - Relations with the General Public and Lay Communication Media
   
1.
Can we display product promotional materials in a third party organized event that is open for the general public to register and attend?
The Hong Kong Undesirable Medical Advertisements Ordinance (UMAO) governs direct-to-consumer promotion of pharmaceutical products, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines. While there are certain purposes for which advertising is permitted under the UMAO which may be relevant in particular for OTC medicines, promotional materials visible or distributed to the general public that state that a product/treatment has an effect on a specific disease or class of disease may be prohibited. Companies should always consider and adhere to the UMAO when determining the appropriateness of any displayed or distributed promotional materials in settings accessible by the general public, such as print (e.g., newspapers) or digital advertisements, public billboards and signs, third party organized public health talks, patient advocacy events, and patient conferences.