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Los Angeles - Many of you may have heard of the new law in California, the California Marketing Compliance Law (CMCL), that focuses on the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies and the controversy that it has caused in the drug industry. Even though the law went into effect almost a year ago many meeting planners are still unsure about what the law really is and how it affects them.


In September 2004, a bill was signed that added a new section to the California Health and Safety Code - now known as CMCL. The goal of CMCL is "by limiting marketing practices to exclude inappropriate marketing or promotional activities ... the bill will have the effect of lowering prescription drug costs and easing public concerns about conflicts of interest between doctors and drug company sales representatives." SB 1765 Bill Analysis (April 12, 2004).


CMCL mandates that drug companies develop Comprehensive Compliance Programs (CCPs) in accordance with the Office of Inspector General's pharmaceutical and marketing guidelines. The CCPs must include specific guidelines on annual spending for gifts, promotional items and materials and marketing activities, including any activities at medical conferences that target California doctors.

This not only includes companies headquartered in California, but any company that does business in California.

What Now?

While there is still much debate over many aspects of the law including the effective date, how to implement the law and how to comply with it, most companies are erring on the conservative side. There has already been a decline on spending on conference giveaways - no more expensive gifts or trips.

Companies are also being cautious at national conferences where California doctors are in attendance. The law is not clear on how it applies in this situation and how it applies to exhibitors, but experts agree that you should not assume that the law does not apply if you are not actually in California. If you are exhibiting at a national conference, a safe bet is to find out how many California doctors are in attendance at a national conference and assume that each one will receive one of your giveaways. That cost should be built into your budget for annual per-physician spending in California.

If you are planning a conference where California doctors will be in attendance, you can help your exhibitors comply with the new law by providing projected attendee demographic data before the conference, actual data shortly after the conference and use data-tracking on attendee name badges. Be sure that you are informed about the new law and pass that knowledge onto your exhibitors.

Coming to a State Near You

Do you still think this law does not apply to you? Several states including Maine, Vermont, Nevada, New Mexico, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. are in the process of adopting similar legislation. So watch out - it could be affecting you very soon!

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