February 20, 2019

Speaker Programs - Being Proactive

speaker programs
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John Cusmina

President, TL Health

I attended a speaker program conference earlier this month, and this year’s theme was ensuring that programs are compliant.

We all know speaker programs are an excellent way to allow for peer to peer learning.  But with the workload of physicians only getting larger and external pressures requiring them to do more for less, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a sales rep to get access and deliver a sales message. 

This is unfortunate because I think we all can agree that an educated physician leads to better patient outcomes.

Speaker programs provide an opportunity for the healthcare professional to:

  • Learn about the disease and product
  • Review patient case studies
  • Hear from their peers about how they are handling certain issues
  • Ask questions


However, there is risk.

Because there is an exchange of value, either in the form of speaker fees or attendee meals, the industry must be careful, or these well-intentioned programs can be seen as providing a kickback or an attempt to entice inappropriate prescribing.

The advice given during the conference to remain compliant is to be diligent when:

  • Picking the venue and the cost of the meal
  • Developing the presentation’s content
  • Documenting attendance – are the attendees appropriate for this presentation, how often have they attended this meeting, how many physicians are attending
  • Training speakers and sales reps – is your team trained on how to handle situations like a speaker canceling at the last minute, a physician bringing a colleague who is not relevant to the material, the discussion becoming off-label


It is important to ensure sales reps and speakers are apprised of the above company policies, are trained appropriately and receive periodic follow-up.

However, it doesn’t end there.  Companies tend to get complacent once guidelines and training are in place. But these initiatives are just the minimum requirements.

As pointed out by the legal counsel in attendance at the conference, the only way to truly mitigate your risk and minimize legal action is to be proactive and actively monitor these programs for non-compliance. 

Things you should be actively monitoring include:

  • How many times a speaker has presented on the company’s behalf
  • How many times an attendee has attended a meeting
  • Who is attending the meeting
  • Is the content relevant
  • Is it providing educational value


If you are not being proactive in this regard, then you have not minimized risk. And if you have not minimized risk then it’s only a matter of time before that risk turns into a very big problem.

We can all build compliant and valuable programs. All it takes is a little diligence on our part to actively communicate appropriate guidelines to our teams and monitor programs regularly.

john work photo- white backgorund

John Cusmina

John has over 34 years of pharmaceutical industry experience working in Product Management, Market Research, Sales and Sales Operations for companies such as GSK, AstraZeneca, Shire, Medeva Pharmaceuticals, and IMS Health. His specialties include: Market Strategy Planning & Development, Launch and Operational Planning, Market Research, Multi-Channel Promotions and Business Development.

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