Friday, June 29, 2012

Massachusetts Backtracks on Gift Ban

Back in 2008 I was pleased to blog about the new law in Massachusetts that imposed one of the most stringent restrictions on Pharma gifts to docs, in the name of constraining health care costs by eliminating commercial influence:

More recently, I had to report that the law was in jeopardy:

Now we learn from the good folks at Pharmalot:
--that the Mass. legislature has approved the amended bill that allows more free lunches, in particular, and that the Gov is poised to approve, though organizations like the National Physicians Alliance is writing to urge that he withhold his signature and the American Medical Student Association is also griping.

As to what arguments seemed most powerful in swaying the legislature, the most forceful lobbying seems to have been a combo of the restaurant and the medical device makers, both claiming that the ban was killing jobs and driving business to other states-- for instance, as Pharmalot tells us:

“The gift ban has been devastating to restaurants and thousands of middle-class employees,” according to a statement on the Massachusetts Restaurant Association web site ... However, state tax receipts on meals increased last year and the same trend continued through the first five months of this year, according to the state Blue Book ....

State coffers aside, some eateries maintain the ban has had real consequences. The Chocolate Truffle, for instance, is not selling as many chocolate shoes, a popular corporate gift, since the ban took effect. “We have closed a store in Lynnfield, we have drastically cut the number of employees we have,” Erin Calvo-Bacci told a Boston television station last week .... “If that gift ban was gone then we could increase our production.”

What I had said in the past holds: It is really interesting to see how the drug and device industries will give up a lot of marketing tools under pressure, such as jettisoning the previously ubiquitous drug logo pens--but free meals really must work because they'll fight tooth and nail to keep them. And it is really interesting how much total restaurant revenue seems to ride on these junkets. (So much for them being the "modest" meals we hear about in the language opf the law and in the PhRMA code of conduct).

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