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Pharmaceutical Codex: the most important facts

Code compliant conferences

The Voluntary self-monitoring for the pharmaceutical industry (FSA) has established requirements representing the basic conditions to be met by a hotel in order to be allowed to host a pharmaceutical event. We have compiled the most important information on the conditions required for the hosting of events at hotels for you, the pharmaceutical event organiser, below.

The meaning of the pharmaceutical code as it pertains to the organisation of events at hotels

Members of the healthcare industry may not be unfairly influenced in their therapeutic, prescriptive or purchasing decisions. The offering, promise or provision of unfair advantages, either directly or involving any third party, is therefore prohibited. Requirements pertaining to the content of educational events are therefore not necessarily restricted to actual medications. The addressing of topics that are (directly) linked to the pharmaceutical area of the corporation may suffice. Economic or social topics, if they are tangibly connected to the pharmaceutical area of the corporation, may be covered if they take up less than 50% of the provided time. Should the educational event turn out to be a non-monetary gratuity in the form of non-pharmaceutical educational benefits – in other words, should participants be given information that they would have had to pay for on the free market – then this would constitute a code violation.

Accompanying guests

The FSA code “common position on the penal appraisal of collaborations between industry, health care facilities and their employees" and the model professional code for doctors (MBO-Ä: Musterberufsordnung Ärzte) both prohibit provisions and/or cost-assumptions for guests accompanying conference attendees. The mention of the possibility of bringing an accompanying guest on the registration form is also prohibited, as is the proclamation of notification of accompanying persons (as would be the case in an invitation, which reads “I will be attending with xy people”) if these are not explicit members of industry being addressed. While participants of a scientific program cannot be prohibited from bringing guests, this is a strictly private issue and decision. Any personal component is forbidden in educational events. This includes the invitation of, provision for and assumption of costs for guests of attendees. This applies (amongst others) to additional hotel charges, double rooms, breakfast, food and beverages, travel planning in its entirety, and the organisation and payment of supporting program features and entertainment.

Hospitality and conference package rate

Participant hospitality is subject to the regulations listed in § 20 of the FSA code as well as those of the "common position". For internal education events, the amount considered acceptable per participant and meal is principally not to exceed 60 Euros including beverages and VAT. Fixed conference rates are also to be kept below 60 Euros. Please keep in mind that a fixed conference rate may never exceed a total of 60-70 Euros. Events in which there is a clear disparity between the scientific component of the program and cost of participant hospitality are not allowed under the given guidelines. Hospitality expenses of 60 Euros for a one-hour presentation are not considered acceptable. Aforementioned fixed rates must always include technology, room fees and coffee breaks.

Hotel venue

In planning, it should be noted that the hotel chosen as the venue of the event (and/or accommodations) must be a business or conference hotel, which offers a pricing range including breakfast and VAT that may be considered commensurate with the planned event. The evaluation of the establishment's code conformity is based on § 20 paragraph 3 of the FSA code, or § 19 of the AKG code.Accommodations do not exceed an acceptable level as long as:

  • the hotel meets the criteria of a business or conference hotel in terms of its infrastructure, technology and facilities
  • the hotel does not offer extraordinary Wellness facilities or applications, or a disproportionate recreational content

In order to meet code requirements, the following points are relevant:

  • the hotel has to be clearly business oriented in nature
  • easy access for participants and speakers
  • appropriate, certified conference rooms
  • sufficient capacities in terms of conference space and accommodations
  • event timing
  • image cultivation of the location based on the Internet
  • public perception of the location
  • qualification and credentials of invitees

According to § 20 paragraph 3, establishments "known for their entertainment value" are to be avoided as event venues. Venues likely to be known for entertainment value are those, in which events such as shows, cabarets, musical performances, film showings, amusement rides or gambling are regularly held. For this reason, establishments that may be adequately equipped in terms of conference facilities will still be considered inappropriate if they are located, for instance, on the grounds of a recreational park, to which there is access. Venues that may be referred to as "extravagant" are also to be avoided. The term "extravagant" suggests an establishment that does not distinguish itself as a typical business or conference hotel, but rather as particularly luxurious in some respect. Venues appropriately equipped for conferences are still considered extravagant if their nature and appearance are likely to give the impression that events are held here primarily for entertainment rather than business purposes. In any case, careful consideration should always be paid to any decision regarding the booking of an event venue or hotel.

Supporting program and activities

The assumption of expenses for any cultural, sporting or recreational activity is generally prohibited, no matter the timing. Educational conferences are not to be planned so as to include or allow supporting programs or activities. The use of hotel facilities is not prohibited. Supporting programs and activities are allowed if their cost, including planning and organisation, is carried by the participant in full and activities do not take place during conference hours.

Overnight accommodations

Expenses for overnight may be assumed if they are necessary and appropriate. The determination of necessity is based on the duration of the event and whether or not participants can be reasonably expected to arrive and depart on the same day. In the case of advanced scientific educational events with a duration of at least seven hours, participants may be expected to travel two hours to and from their home, respectively, if the duration of the event does not exceed 12-13 hours in total. An assumption of overnight expenses would not be reasonable in this case. Costs may only be assumed if the entire days' event were to take up over 14 hours.

Scheduling and planning

The following time guidelines should be adhered to - in addition to any tax requirements for net hours worked as dictated by tax and revenue services - when planning programmes and scheduling timelines:

  • 8 hours of scientific content including breaks for a whole day event
  • 4 hours of scientific content including break for a half-day event

The correct planning will allow participants the time needed to travel and convene comfortably:

  • Event starting at 9.00 a.m.: Arrival from anywhere in Germany on the night prior (with a travel time of 2-2.5 hours in total)
  • Event starting at 10.00 a.m.: Same-day arrival (since a travel time of 2 hours before 10.00 a.m. is deemed to be reasonable)
  • Event ending at 6.00 p.m.: Dinner and 2-3 hours return travel. A further nights' accommodation is code compliant if the entirety of the day’s program including travel time exceeds 14 hours. However, the scientific component of the event must account for no less than 70 %

Practical examples:

  • Cost assumption for dinner and the nights' accommodation would not be allowed for an arrival time of 3.00 p.m. or earlier if the event is scheduled to begin at 10.00 a.m. the following morning.
  • Dinner and accommodations are allowed if the event is scheduled to begin at 8.30 a.m. because there would be no way to ensure that all participants from throughout Germany would be able to arrive on time otherwise.
  • If the event ends between 4.00 and 5.00 p.m., the cost assumption for a further nights' accomodation is not acceptable, since all participants should be able to make a return trip at this time.
  • If the event ends on a Friday evening, costs may not be assumed for the upcoming weekend.
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