MA gift, coupon bans stay on books

Two restrictive Massachusetts statutes, one barring pharmaceutical gifts to doctors and another drug discount coupons for consumers, remained unchanged in the state's recently passed budget for fiscal year 2012.
The budget arising from a house-senate conference committee preserved the gift ban and a related reporting statute, despite the fact that just two months earlier, the house handily passed an effort to strike it in a 128-22 bipartisan vote.
That followed an attempted repeal last year which had failed when the house couldn't muster enough votes. A compromise allowing industry to fund doctors' meals at restaurants also fell one senate vote shy in 2010.
As expected, the issue resurfaced in this year's legislative session, with critics saying the ban on gifts had hamstrung business and caused medical societies to take the state off their convention cycle. They also argued that, by keeping pharmaceutical companies from feting doctors, the ban harms the restaurant industry and does little to rein in healthcare costs.
Supporters touted the gift ban's impact on preventing conflicts of interest in healthcare and pointed to the state's thriving biotech sector.
Massachusetts' ban on discount coupons, the only such state ban, had also inspired debate, with backers of the ban calling such coupons deceptive and patient groups saying the vouchers improve access.
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