“Pharmaceutical and device companies are being much
more careful in the way that they fund associations’ activities,”
Sagsveen says. “Associations that rely financially on pharmaceu-
tical and device companies can therefore anticipate a decline in
The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy already
is experiencing such a decline, according to ASGE Corporate
Relations Director Linda Kay Tyler.
“A company who supported our annual meeting and book
bags for 20-plus years is no longer doing it,” she says. “We’ve
seen the same thing in the exhibit hall.”
In fact, the updated PhRMA and AdvaMed codes have a
number of implications for associations, who say the impact on
their meetings is especially pronounced, affecting:
• Attendance: Because companies are more reluctant to spon-
sor conferences and exhibit at them, the net cost of meet-
ings is going up, forcing many associations to consider rais-
ing the price of registration, which could dissuade attendees.
CREATIVE CURES FOR ANNUAL MEETINGS
Although the relationship between health care associations and
industry has changed, it hasn’t disappeared.
“Money is not going away,” Tyler says. “It’s just being
Adds meeting supplier Jonathon Hixon, CMP, associate
director of sales for Tourism Toronto, “Associations still need to
meet, the research still needs to be presented and the science
is still very important. The question is, how much is it going to
cost associations to continue delivering it?”
To keep costs in check and compliance top of mind, associa-
• Study the codes: Pharmaceutical and device companies want
to do business with associations that understand what they
can and cannot do, according to Tyler, who says associations
that can help companies navigate the codes and comply with
them are at an advantage when it comes to securing grants,
sponsorships and exhibits.
• Collaborate with industry: Just as important as what the
revised codes prohibit is what they allow, according to Powell, who suggests engaging industry in order to create new
code-compliant programs. Although companies can’t gift
pens, for instance, they can distribute educational items
such as textbooks, anatomical models and informational
brochures. Although they can’t drum up trade show traffic
with lavish giveaways, they can generate booth interest by
hosting peer-to-peer discussions or creating high-tech educational experiences. Although they can’t pay physicians to
attend events, they can participate in hosted-buyer programs
organized by associations. And although they can’t directly
sponsor meals or entertainment, they still can contribute to
general conference funds that may or may not pay for them.
The onus is on associations to find out what sponsors and
exhibitors are comfortable with, and to design new opportunities to match.
• Engage suppliers: Associations should look to their suppliers
for help, according to Hixon, who says destination marketing organizations can help them navigate local laws, identify
code-compliant venues, fund programs and market their
meetings in pursuit of more attendees with which to fill the
revenue gap left by sponsors.
• Invest in new opportunities: Because meetings revenue is
falling, associations should consider other non-dues revenue
opportunities, according to Sagsveen, who says that AAN,
for instance, is counting on publishing for additional non-dues revenue.
• Cut costs: Because stimulating non-dues revenue is challenging in a down economy, Sagsveen recommends cutting
costs to cope with the financial effects of code changes on
meetings. AAN, for instance, has downsized its staff travel
budget and is holding fewer face-to-face committee meetings, opting instead to meet via teleconference.
The bottom line: The best response to compliance is creativity.
“Associations are going to have to get far more innovative,”
Not too innovative, though, according to Powell. “Meetings
continue to be important,” she says. “Pharmaceutical companies continue to have enormous amounts of information and
prescribers continue to need that information. The codes
haven’t changed that. What they’ve done is clarified what kind
of information is appropriate and under what circumstances it’s
appropriate to give it.”
Matt Alderton is a freelance writer and a contributing editor to FORUM. He may
be reached at
HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATIONS:
LEARN MORE IN MARCH
Learn more by attending the “Improving Your Business
Practices to Align With PhRMA, AdvaMed Codes”
education session on March 4, 2010, location TBD. This
can’t-miss educational event promises the best solutions
to associations’ biggest code-related problems. Register