Surprise! Massachusetts gift ban is back

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When Massachusetts' House of Representatives approved a big healthcare bill last month, drug and device makers and data firms thought they'd ducked several bullets, but the final bill, passed by both houses last night, includes a few nasty surprises for industry – including a code of conduct for drug marketers, an academic detailing program and stringent reporting requirements for payments 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.

Among other things, the legislation stipulates that the code must prohibit:
  • Provision of, or compensation for, meals for docs, except for in-office “lunch 'n' learns”
  • Entertainment or recreational items of any value
  • Sponsorship or payment for CME that does not meet ACCME standards, as well as support for costs of meals, travel, lodging or other personal expenses of non-faculty practitioners attending any CME event, conference or professional meeting
  • Cash or equivalent payments to practitioners “either directly or indirectly, except as compensation for bona fide services.”

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.

The bill also 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.
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