Drug Marketers Ban Event Swag

Pens, coffee mugs, totes and other promotional trinkets are a mainstay of American meetings, conferences and trade shows. Beginning in 2009, however, they are all banned at events organized by the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

According to new voluntary marketing guidelines issued to its members last week, effective Jan. 1, 2009, PhRMA will no longer allow its affiliates to distribute "non-educational" items to health care providers and their staffs. The reason, according to the association, is that items adorned with companies' names and logos create a conflict of interest; drug makers end up marketing their products on the basis of emotional brand connections, it suggests, rather than medical merit.

"It has the look of an unprofessional relationship," PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin said. "Removing that look is important."

Several high-profile drug companies, including Merck and Co., GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, have released statements in support of the new PhRMA marketing directives.

"Informative, ethical and professional relationships between health care providers and America's pharmaceutical research companies are instrumental to effective patient care," PhRMA Chairman and Merck CEO Richard T. Clark said in a statement. "We take this responsibility seriously and are constantly reexamining ways we can enhance these essential company-physician interactions and reinforce the integrity of information about our medicines."