N.J. AG proposes gift ban rules

December 4, 2009 by MassDevice staff

New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram wants the Garden State to clamp down on industry payments to physicians, mirroring laws already on the books in Massachusetts and Vermont.

N.J. AG proposes gift ban rules

New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram wants the Garden State to adopt rules akin to regulations in Massachusetts and Vermont, so-called "gift bans" governing the relationship between industry and physicians.

Like its more northern neighbors in the Bay and Green Mountain states, the proposed rules aim to address "the pervasive and largely unregulated conflicts of interest that arise from the financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device companies."

"Such financial relationships threaten to bias medical decision-making and compromise patient health. The residents of the State of New Jersey deserve a medical community that is free from such conflicts," according to a report (PDF) by Milgram's office, which would ban New Jersey docs from acepting free meals from medical device and drug companies.

"For years, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers have given physicians expensive gifts, free vacations, and lavish meals. In addition, recent studies demonstrate that even gifts of nominal value, including food, have an impact on physician prescribing practices. The receipt of gifts, payments and perks — large and small — engenders a loyalty (or feeling of obligation) in the receiver to reciprocate," according to the report.

It also recommends that MDs looking to renew their license be forced to disclose anything received from device or drug makers in excess of $200 during the previous two years, and that the state dump that information into a public database.

That's a departure from the rules in Massachusetts and Vermont, which put the reporting onus on industry instead of physicians. The proposal is akin to Vermont's rules in one respect, with its ban on the sale of prescription data that can be linked to doctors. Companies including IMS Health use that data as the basis of a healthy business, delivering reports to pharma companies detailing the prescribing habits of individual docs.

But the proposal does include a caveat that would mitigate some of the sting for medical device makers and pharma, namely, free samples.