Massachusetts Senate OK’s proposal to license pharma sales reps

A proposal in the Massachusetts Senate could make the state the first in the nation to license pharmaceutical sales reps and prohibit them from providing entertainment, gifts, payments or travel to doctors, healthcare facilities or public officials, The Boston Globe reports. The proposal was passed as an amendment to the state budget by Senator Mark Montigny, Democrat of New Bedford. “Hairdressers and manicurists must be licensed to work in the Commonwealth,” Montigny said. “Pharmaceutical representatives who market prescription drugs and attempt to influence doctors to prescribe name-brand drugs should also be licensed.” In a statement, PhRMA SVP Ken Johnson said Montigny’s proposal “would impose an additional burden on the sharing of new information with physicians.” “The amendment also seeks to impose criminal penalties on what should be viewed as the important sharing of information between pharmaceutical companies and physicians regarding the risks and benefits of medicine,” Johnson said. John Kamp, executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication said, "This Massachusetts statute is one more example of good intentions gone bad. Doctors could lose their license to practice for not reporting gifts of pens, notepads, medical education and medical texts while politicians and the press spin ugly stories about drug company influence on the practice of medicine. It's time to wise up, Massachusetts, and understand that the medical care industries must collaborate to deliver the best care to patients.  More paperwork doesn't serve patients." The measure would require reps to complete training before receiving their licenses and participate in continuing education. If the measure becomes law, licensing fees would be split between the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, where they would be used to prosecute Medicaid fraud, and the state’s Board of Registration in Pharmacy, where the money would be used to reduce medical errors. Montigny said he has separately introduced the proposal as a bill in the Senate, should the measure fail during budget talks. “I’m not going away on this issue,” he said. “We need to ban all manipulation of drug-prescribing practices.”