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Tales from Pharma Forum 2014

The conference kicked off with stories that reflected many of the strange and wonderful aspects of planning meetings for the life sciences industry.

There are unintended consequences, and then there are really unintended consequences—especially when it comes to pharmaceutical and other life sciences company meetings. Among those that caused a few gasps, giggles, or groans at the kickoff of the 10th Annual Pharma Forum in Orlando: 

• In 2014, the Sunshine Act—now called Open Payments—requires companies to track, document, and publicly post all transfers of value, from speaker fees to the salad a doc eats for lunch. Many docs don't know about this, so imagine how that neurosurgeon will react, noted one speaker, when her ex-spouse sees some income posted and decides that he should get a piece of that unclaimed pie?

• The new regs also are making an innocuous John Denver ditty an anathema to compliance professionals. The song, of course, begins with the line, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.”

• One pharma planner shared that he met a person at a previous Pharma Forum who ended up being his best friend—then someone else piped up that she’d met her spouse at a Pharma Forum!

• Just as the pain of learning about new regs can bring people together, even natural disasters have an upside. One presenter, for example, recalled the day that atmospheric ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano threw an all-too-literal pall over Europe as “the best day of my life.” One of her company’s departments had circumvented the meeting planning and compliance departments to put together a highly noncompliant meeting in London. In the days before the volcano’s eruption, her department had been scrambling to bring the event under control, but time was getting tight. When the ash shut down travel and meetings across Europe, her whole department heaved a huge sigh of relief when they were able to cancel. 

• Procurement and compliance departments may be starting to understand that relationships can be worth more than what shows up on the bottom line. One speaker told the story of an acquaintance whose supplier alerted her that an exec at her company was asking for golf and spa perks for bringing a meeting to the property—something that’s strictly against the rules. Because they had a good relationship, her contact at the property felt comfortable letting her know what was going on.

And these are just some of the stories from the first few hours of Pharma Forum 2014! Look for more reports on the conference, which runs through Wednesday and is co-organized by MeetingsNet/medical and the Center for Business Intelligence.

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