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New PhRMA Code Has No Impact on 86% of Medical Trade Show Attendees

PhRMAWhat’s the real impact of PhRMA Code changes on convention marketing?

Not as much as you might think, according to a new study by Marketech.  86% of over 500 healthcare convention attendees said that changes to the PhRMA code has not impacted their visitation to exhibits at medical conventions. 

The new PhRMA code, which provides voluntary guidelines on how pharmaceutical companies can market to healthcare professionals, took effect starting in 2009.

According to Marc Goldberg, CME, principal at Marketech, the main changes in the new code are:

  • A complete ban on free meals for doctors when the meals have no educational value
  • A complete ban on taking doctors to entertainment or recreational events, such as golf and baseball games
  • A complete ban on non educational gifts, such as pens and coffee mugs

It’s the third point that is the big change for trade show marketers who have relied on premiums and giveaways to get health care professionals into their trade show booths.

For exhibitors who used to rely heavily on promotions, Goldberg supplies advice on how to remain successful in the now tighter regulatory environment:

  • Remember as we plan our events, Healthcare Providers visit our exhibits for the education and they expect to learn something new as a result of the time invested (or at least have you help them recall something they have learned in the past.)
  • They want to be valued and a gift doesn’t always do that. Acknowledging, recognizing and including them in dialogue creates this positive environment.
  • Without the traditional promotional products, we have to aggressively engage to get convention attendees to enter our exhibits.
  • We have to create an experience for our visitors so they remember our differentiators and product messages. Our interactives, e-details and challenges help create that experience along with our staff’s involvement.
  • We need to measure every element of our exhibit, including the impact of sponsorships to assure that they are resonating and attracting with our target audiences.

You can read the entire study below, which includes almost 100 verbatim quotes from healthcare professionals.   The new study by Marketech, which consults on exhibit staff training, strategic exhibit marketing, and measurement, with research support from the Lorimer Consulting Group, was based on interviews with over 1,400 attendees to healthcare conventions from late 2008 to early 2009, both before and after the rule changes, to assess the impact. 

Many thanks to Marc Goldberg for allowing us to share his research with you.  Click on the rectangular button below in the upper right to see his report full screen.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits' Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

2 responses to “New PhRMA Code Has No Impact on 86% of Medical Trade Show Attendees

  1. Why would PhRMA guidelines apply to a medical trade show that the doctor has paid to attend? What a double standard! What about restricting direct to consumer advertising?

    1. Hello Mark,

      From what I’ve heard, the new rules are there to prevent pharmaceutical companies appearing to use gifts at trade shows to influence doctors’ prescribing methods. Doctors go to trade shows to get their required continuing education, so they have to come, paid or not. The PhRMA code was updated because there was similar impending legislation from Massachusetts, so the association decided to police themselves before getting forced to by the government. Which could play out with direct to consumer advertising someday, too.

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