It looks like the Massachusetts "gift ban" won’t be repealed after all.
A provision to spike the Commonwealth’s ban on gifts for physicians from medical device and pharmaceutical companies failed to make it into the final omnibus economic development bill on Beacon Hill, meaning the gift ban remains intact unless the legislature brings up the issue again next session.
The Mass. House of Representatives voted to kill the 2008 gift ban law in early July.
The ban, passed in 2008 and put into effect last July, is aimed at reducing the influence of Big Pharma and device makers over healthcare. It requires companies to report any cash gift of more than $50 to a public database and mandates outright bans on gifts like promotional pens, tickets and other boondoggles. Meals are permitted in a hospital setting, but not at restaurants. Some exemptions include research-related payments.
Industry advocates say the ban creates red tape and increased expenses for medical device makers and pharma companies while squelching innovation. Some doctors complained that the ban also restricts their opportunity to receive training on the use of new devices.
Certain Massachusetts politicians and industry heads argued for the repeal based on purported negative economic effects. The critics said the ban was discouraging out-of-state interests from doing business in Massachusetts and said the ban had not led to demonstrable reductions in health care costs. The Mass. Senate debated on whether to lift the ban on taking doctors to restaurants.
Georgia Maheras, Private Market Policy Manager of Health Care for All, which authored the bill, said that the vote "reaffirmed [th legislature’s] commitment to keeping drug costs low." HCFA believes that pharmaceutical marketing corrupts the professional relationship between a patient and their prescriber.
Boston University law professor and pharmaceutical industry monitor Kevin Outterson told MassDevice in July that the law had not been in effect long enough to have an impact on the industry. The repeal’s inclusion in the economic development package is the result of a mixture of business and politics, Outterson said.