Massachusetts dumps gift ban, punts on data

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Massachusetts lawmakers trashed a proposed gift ban hotly contested by biotechs, a key industry in the state, and put off the effective date of a provision banning commercial use of prescriber data pending legal action on similar measures in other states.

The Boston Globe reported that the measure banning gifts was stripped from legislation approved by the House on Wednesday. The paper said lawmakers also pulled a measure requiring that drug and device companies report payments to physicians for consulting and speaking fees or face a $5,000 per violation fine.

Instead, the drug companies would be required to adopt “marketing code of conduct” similar to the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, revisions to which were announced last week. The revised PhRMA code bans most gifts to physicians, along with meals out and “dine and dash” meals, calls for caps on speaker fees to individual physicians (to be determined by individual companies) and restricts some spending on CME events.

Still included in the Massachusetts legislation is a ban on commercial provision of prescriber data, but the measure would not take effect until November 2009. A consortium of health information firms–IMS Health, Verispan and Wolters Kluwer Health–have challenged similar policies elsewhere in New England, and lawmakers hoped to avoid a costly legal battle that might be resolved in other states.

Consumer groups said they would work to see that the gift ban included in the Senate version of the legislation prevails in conference.
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