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Massachusetts bans gifts to doctors

The Public Health Council in Massachusetts last week voted 10-0 in favour of regulations that ban pharmaceutical and medical device companies from giving gifts to physicians

The Public Health Council in Massachusetts last week voted 10-0 in favour of regulations that ban pharmaceutical and medical device companies from giving gifts to physicians, the Boston Globe reports. Approval for the ban came with only two "substantive" modifications to the initial draft that was signed in December, despite objections from lobbying organisations that include drug and biotech companies, doctors, and the hotel and convention industry.

Under the new legislation that comes into effect July 1, companies doing business in the state will face restrictions when buying doctors meals and will have to publicly disclose payments to doctors that exceed $50 for certain types of consulting and speaking engagements. Companies will also have to disclose payments to doctors and hospitals for "seeding trials", but will not have to disclose funding for research on "a scientific question". They will also still be free to offer financial assistance for residents and other trainees to attend conferences and education courses.

The council says the regulations are intended to control costs by reducing unnecessary prescriptions as well as make potential conflicts of interest transparent, however health officials claim the rules are now the most restrictive in the nation. In a statement to the Boston Globe, Robert Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, said: "Massachusetts is now seen as the most unfriendly state in the nation toward industry," and added that, "In these tough economic times, you don't want to send a chilling message to an industry that's a growth industry".

The first public reporting by firms will be due by July 1, 2010.

16th March 2009

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