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Fraud Alert: Speaker Programs

This Special Fraud Alert highlights the fraud and abuse risks associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration relating to speaker programs by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. For purposes of this Special Fraud Alert, speaker programs are generally defined as company-sponsored events at which a physician or other health care professional (collectively, “HCP”) makes a speech or presentation to other HCPs about a drug or device product or a disease state on behalf of the company. The company generally pays the speaker HCP an honorarium, and often pays remuneration (for example, free meals) to the attendees. In the last three years, drug and device companies have reported paying nearly $2 billion to HCPs for speaker-related services.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have investigated and resolved numerous fraud cases involving allegations that remuneration offered and paid in connection with speaker programs violated the anti-kickback statute. The Federal government has pursued civil and criminal cases against companies and individual HCPs involving speaker programs. These cases alleged, for example, that drug and device companies:

  • selected high-prescribing HCPs to be speakers and rewarded them with lucrative speaker deals (e.g., some HCPs received hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking);
  • conditioned speaker remuneration on sales targets (e.g., required speaker HCPs to write a minimum number of prescriptions in order to receive the speaker honoraria);
  • held speaker programs at entertainment venues or during recreational events or otherwise in a manner not conducive to an educational presentation (e.g., wineries, sports stadiums, fishing trips, golf clubs, and adult entertainment facilities);
  • held programs at high-end restaurants where expensive meals and alcohol were served (e.g., in one case, the average food and alcohol cost per attendee was over $500); and
  • invited an audience of HCP attendees who had previously attended the same program or HCPs’ friends, significant others, or family members who did not have a legitimate business reason to attend the program.
Our enforcement experience demonstrates that some companies expend significant resources on speaker programs and that some HCPs receive substantial remuneration from companies. This Special Fraud Alert highlights some of the inherent fraud and abuse risks associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration related to company-sponsored speaker programs.
To read the Special Fraud Alert in its entirety, click here.

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