An effort in the Massachusetts legislature to repeal the state’s ban on many gifts to healthcare providers has failed. The year-old ban is considered one of the most restrictive in the country, banning restaurant meals, various gifts and requiring reporting on transfers of value above $50.
“This repeal effort was started by legislators concerned that the law is hurting the state’s economy,” explained PhRMA’s Senior Assistant General Counsel Marjorie Powell in a prepared statement. “And it is certainly true that it adds an extra level of administrative complexity for companies in the state. Pharmaceutical marketing is already effectively regulated by such federal government agencies as the Food and Drug Administration.”
The Massachusetts ban was part of the larger Health Care Cost and Quality Act. Although the bill is best known for extending health insurance almost universally in the state, it also created a new code of conduct for sales reps and established penalties for wayward reps of up to $5,000 per violation. It also created the Massachusetts Public Health Council, which has the power to create rules further limiting marketing practices.
Last year the Council passed new rules for both pharma and medical device companies, making Massachusetts the state with the most comprehensive marketing and disclosure code. The rules specifically mandate disclosure of fees, payments and other compensation to doctors; ban promotional items such as pens and mugs; and restrict meals to those provided at training or educational events. Payments for research and clinical trials, rebates and discounts, prescription drugs provided for patient use and demonstration units for charity care are exempt. All other payments of $50 or more must be disclosed.
Currently, Vermont and Maine have bans on all food service “gifts” to physicians. Minnesota limits gifts to under $50, while California, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all require pharmaceutical and biotech companies to report marketing spending on physicians, but do not ban food service outright.