According to a recent Associated Press report, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick just signed a bill created, in part, to help reduce that stateâ€™s increasing health care costs.Â The bill will require â€œhospitals and doctors to adopt a statewide electronic records-keeping system by 2015â€ and â€œmandates hospitals report all hospital-acquired infections and bans them from charging for so-called â€˜never eventsâ€™ like wrong-side surgeries.â€
Of particular importance, though, is another aspect of the bill that requires <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">pharmaceutical companies and <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">medical device manufacturers to report all gifts to doctors that exceed $50.Â Trinkets, samples, food and drinks, trips, and other gifts have long been an accepted part of the medical profession.Â Â Earlier this year, Christopher A. Viehbacher, president for North American pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline, wrote to Governor Patrick and Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi of the stateâ€™s House, suggesting his company might not invest as much in Massachusetts if political developmentsâ€ worked to â€œdevalueâ€ its assets.Â Viehbacher was writing in response to a proposed gift ban that would make Massachusetts â€œthe most hostile state in the nation when it comes to biopharmaceutical sales.â€Â Now, in response to the bill, some companies claim that the billâ€™s gift language is so â€œall-encompassingâ€ it will be impossible for them to conduct research in the state.Â Also according to the AP, â€œthe national Biotechnology Industry Organization slammed the measure.â€
Meanwhile, gift-giving practices are changing and last month, gifts that pharmaceutical companies have been giving doctors were banned from drug makerâ€™s marketing campaigns under a new voluntary guideline.Â The industryâ€™s Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionalsâ€”written by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industryâ€™s trade associationâ€”will ask chief executives of large drug makers to certify in writing that â€œthey have policies and procedures in place to foster compliance with the code.â€
Extravagant gifts given to doctors by industry, such as golf vacations and expensive dinners, have been sharply criticized as influencing doctors’ prescribing habits.Â Industry says such gestures are part physician education; however, critics say these practices sully independent decision-making.Â “Transparency brings about accountability and benefits everyone, consumers most of all,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.
The drug industry last updated its marketing code in 2002, when it banned â€œdine and dashâ€ events in which drug makers provided free take-out dinners, Christmas trees, and gas to doctors who agreed to listen to brief sales pitches.Â That code also banned golf outings and free tickets to sporting events.Â None of those rules apply to biotechnology or medical device makers, many of which continue to give expensive gifts and resort vacations to high-profile physicians.Â And, last year, five medical device makers settled a U.S. Justice Department investigation over gifts and payment practices. Four of themâ€”Zimmer Holdings Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s DuPuy Orthopedics, Smith & Nephew, and Biomet Inc.â€”agreed to pay a combined $311 million as part of the settlement.Â The fifth company, Stryker Corporation agreed to change its practices and was not fined.
According to the AP, Senate President Therese Murray, one of the bills champions, said the new law is critical to the success of the stateâ€™s landmark health care law.