New Jersey's tough new conflict regs face uncertain future
Conflict-of-interest rules announced by New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs last week would seem to have mixed prospects under an incoming Republican administration.
The proposals, two years in the making, aim to regulate doctors' financial relationships with pharmaceutical and device firms. They are "designed to ensure that patient care is guided by the unbiased exercise of doctors' best judgments," said Attorney General Anne Milgram, who endorsed the recommendations.
At least some, however, have little chance of advancing to official regulatory policy. For example, data-mining restrictions and a requirement that companies to disclose physician consulting payments would require the state to enact legislation.
That seems unlikely with Chris Christie, a Republican, set to replace Democrat John Corzine as governor next month. The AG, along with other members of the Corzine cabinet, are expected to tender resignations on inauguration day, January 19. Christe is pro-business and pro-pharma. Last week he appointed Richard Bagger, a Pfizer executive and former state legislator, as his chief of staff.
On the other hand, a gift ban and doctor disclosure requirement would not need to take the same route to become policy. Minnesota, Vermont and Maine — states with disclosure laws on their books — put the gift-reporting onus on companies.
Milgram, in perhaps a final jab at an industry of which she has been critical, laid out policies that would make New Jersey unique among states in that it would require doctors, not companies, to disclose. That means the provisions could be enacted by the state's Board of Medical Examiners after a six-month comment period.
New Jersey physicians would need to report consulting fees, honoraria or research funding over $200. They would do so when renewing licenses, and the information would be posted on a public database. They would be barred from receiving any company-paid gifts, fees or travel expenses, as well as any free food or meals in office settings or at dinner meetings.
CME-related restrictions, including a phase-in requiring 25% of CME to be obtained in evidence-based educational programs or through academic detailing, round out the recommendations to be considered by the Board of Medical Examiners