Vermont is on the cusp of enacting what would be the nation’s most restrictive regulations governing industry gifts and payments to physicians, the New York Times reported.
The Green Mountain State’s legislature approved a gift ban act, which Gov. Jim Douglas is expected to sign into law by early June, that would impose even more stringent rules than the famously strict regulations already in place in Massachusetts.
Both states restrict nearly all gifts to physicians, including meals. But unlike the Bay State, which requires public disclosure of all payments of more than $50, Vermont’s rules call for full transparency for all gifts and payments to doctors by device makers and drug companies and bars free meals altogether.
Similar rules are in place for pharmaceutical firms doing business in Minnesota, but the Massachusetts and Vermont rules are the first to fold device makers into the mix.
Tom Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMEDIC), told MassDevice earlier this month that including the device industry in gift bans shows that policy makers don’t understand that medical device development depends on close collaboration between device makers and the doctors who will eventually use their products.
“It will affect the way medical device companies here in Massachusetts work with the medical community. We’ll need to go elsewhere in order to effectively work with them,” Sommer said. “We don’t believe that policymakers fully understand the process required of medical device companies to develop new and innovative products.
“It’s bad public policy and it will have a negative effect on the future growth of the device industry here. The impact is not going to be immediate, but it’s going to be long-term.”
The Vermont rules are the latest in a string of initiatives to rein in medical device and drug industry remuneration to doctors. On top of the Massachusetts rules barring even the lowly promotional pen, Partners Healthcare, which counts three of the larget hospital systems in Massachusetts as members, banned all industry sales reps from its halls last month.
Farther afield, Johns Hopkins University forbade its docs from accepting free samples, gifts, entertainment, food and no-show consulting gigs.
And the Institute of Medicine, the medical board of the National Academy of Sciences, in April recommended that physicians reject all gifts, payments or other compensation from industry.