Mass. Senate proposes ban on all pharma gifts

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The leader of the Massachusetts State Senate has proposed legislation banning all gifts to doctors from pharmaceutical companies. If enacted, the move would make the state the first in the country to ban gifts outright.

“There's going to be a climate change, and there has to be a climate change; otherwise our healthcare reform will implode, just under the costs,” said Massachusetts State Senate president Therese Murray in published reports.

Murray's measure is part of a set of healthcare reforms measures filed in a bill that also includes requiring all doctors statewide to adopt electronic medical records by 2015, allowing patients to choose nurse practitioners as primary care providers, and forcing public reviews of any insurance company efforts to boost annual premiums by more than 7%.

The ban forbids the pharmaceutical industry from giving -- and doctors, their families or employees from receiving -- gifts from drug companies. Gifts include payments, entertainment, meals, travel, honorariums, subscriptions, even a pen with a drug company logo.

The legislation would continue to permit distribution of drug samples to doctors for the exclusive use of their patients. Anyone who violates the ban could be fined $5,000, face two years imprisonment, or both, under the proposal.

Currently Minnesota and Vermont are the only states with mandatory physician gift reporting laws.
In Minnesota, legislators enacted a ban on gifts in excess of $50 from pharmaceutical companies. In Vermont, legislators have passed laws requiring pharmaceutical company representatives to disclose the dollar value of gifts over $25 to doctors.

Julie Corcoran, deputy vice president of PhRMA, told The Boston Globe that the industry's sales people are "highly educated and trained by their companies." The group opposes any ban, saying the pharmaceutical industry is already heavily regulated by the FDA. "I'm not aware of any kind of evidence or studies that link promotional or marketing materials with the cost of healthcare," she said.
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