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Massachusetts OKs Doctor Gift Rules

Mar 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Massachusetts has adopted some of the most comprehensive rules governing gifts, disclosure fees and other perks normally bestowed upon doctors by drug and medical device makers.  

According to the Boston Globe, the new Massachusetts rules:

  • ban pharmaceutical and medical device companies from providing gifts to physicians,
  • limit when companies can pay for doctors' meals,
  • require companies to publicly disclose payments to doctors over $50 for certain types of consulting and speaking engagements.

Any company doing business in Massachusetts must comply with the regulations, the Boston Globe said.  Unlike other states that have passed similar laws, Massachusetts is the only one requiring device makers - not just drug makers -  to make disclosures.  Only one other state requires those disclosures to be public, the Globe said.

According to the Boston Globe, the state's Public Health Council began working on the new rules after the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law intended to restrict interactions between physicians and drug and device companies.  

The regulations will take effect July 1, and the first public reporting by companies will be due by July 1, 2010.  According to The Boston Globe, The information will be posted on the Public Health Department website and will be searchable by company and by healthcare provider.

The industry is - predictably - complaining about the tough new rules.  "Massachusetts is now seen as the most unfriendly state in the nation toward industry," the president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council told the Globe. "In these tough economic times, you don't want to send a chilling message to an industry that's a growth industry."

But a consumer advocate said the rules are a victory for consumers.  "They will know more about the full relationship between industry and their provider," Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, told the Globe.

Others however, are not so sure.  Some criticized the Public Health Commission for watering down the rules to placate industry lobbyists, the State House News Service said.  For instance, the  Commission agreed to exempt from disclosure payments to health care providers for research projects and clinical trials and free sample drugs for patients’ use.

“Those people lie and they have done tremendous damage to public health in this country,” said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), of pharmaceutical industry officials. “They shouldn’t even have a voice when it comes to public health.”

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