Mass. legislature votes to repeal pharma gift ban

I know Boston restaurants have been clamoring to repeal the two-year-old Massachusetts Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturer Code of Conduct law, saying it's hurt their business hugely to lose the doctor dinners. The code restricts informational presentations accompanied by a meal that are sponsored by medical device or drug companies to medical offices, hospitals, or device training facilities—no restaurants allowed (others blame the falloff in restaurant business to the economy, not the law). Economic development folks also wanted it gone, saying it's been scaring off pharma and bio business: the code also bans companies from providing entertainment or recreational items of any value to HCPs, and giveaways, including pens, coffee mugs, and gift cards, along with fairly strict reporting and disclosure rules around any financial interaction between docs and drug companies.

It sounds like the Mass. House heard them all the way up on Beacon Hill: Yesterday it voted 145-4 to pass an economic development law that included chucking the gift ban. Now it has to be reconciled with an already-passed Senate bill, but I'm guessing that, the economy will trump the perceived need to rein in pharma marketing. My prediction: Given the current economic climate in the Bay state, the pharma gift ban won't survive whatever final form the law takes.

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