Legislators Seek Gift Ban Repeal
May 17, 2011
The Massachusetts House of
Representatives has voted to repeal a statewide pharmaceutical gift ban that
prohibits drug companies from entertaining physicians with meals and providing
them with promotional products. Lawmakers who support the repeal argue the ban
has hurt convention centers and restaurants where companies typically have
hosted physician events and dinners. "We need every opportunity possible
in order to generate revenue for our economy," said State Representative
Todd Smola, who is in favor of repealing the ban.
The House-approved measure
would repeal not only a ban on gifts but also a requirement that forces
companies to report any payments to physicians that are more than $50. The
repeal, passed by a considerable 136-vote margin, is tied to the House's 2012
budget proposal and still faces scrutiny in the Massachusetts Senate, which
just last year blocked efforts to overturn the ban. Those who oppose the repeal
point to an increase in the state's collected meals tax as proof the ban is not
harming Massachusetts' hospitality industry. By mid-March of this year, the
state had collected about $607 million in meals taxes for fiscal 2011 (which
ends in June), a 9% jump compared to 2010.
Supporters of the repeal,
however, contend the ban has driven away from Massachusetts two major medical conventions, including the annual
meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. The event, held
this year in San
draws more than 5,000 attendees. Critics also say the current Massachusetts' law, which was passed in 2008, is one of the
strictest in the nation and goes unnecessarily further than federal legislation
like the Physician Payment Sunshine Act.
The Massachusetts' Senate is expected to vote on a separate budget
proposal next month. While it's possible the Senate could include the repeal
language in its proposal, the odds remain long as key leaders staunchly support
the gift ban.