August 18, 2008
Surprise! Massachusetts ban on gifts for doctors is back
When Massachusetts' House of Representatives passed a big healthcare bill in early July, drug and device makers and data firms thought they'd ducked a bullet or three, but the final bill, passed by both houses and signed by the governor a few weeks later, included a few nasty surprises for industry—including a code of conduct for drug marketers, an academic detailing program and stringent reporting requirements for payments made to physicians.
The House had gutted a proposed ban on gifts to physicians, but in its place, the legislation passed last night includes a provision calling for a “standard marketing code of conduct” to be “no less restrictive” than PhRMA's recently revised Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals and that from the Advanced Medical Technology Association. In essence, the code contains all the elements of the proposed gift ban, prohibiting most meals and other gifts to physicians.
The legislation also requires that pharmas and device manufacturers operating in the commonwealth “disclose to the department of health the value, nature, purpose and particular recipient of any fee, payment, subsidy or other economic benefit with a value of at least $50” to healthcare professionals and institutions in the state by July 1 of each year—and face a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation.
And the bill establishes an academic detailing program to be modeled on efforts in Pennsylvania, Vermont, Oregon and North Carolina and paid for through fees for subscriptions and contracts with private payers, funding from nongovernmental health access foundations and “undesignated drug litigation settlement funds associated with pharmaceutical marketing and pricing practices.
Absent from the final bill was a measure banning commercial provision of prescriber data.
The timing of the measure had been pushed back in the House version, as similar laws are being challenged by health information firms elsewhere in New England, and lawmakers hoped to avoid a costly legal battle that might be resolved in other states.