In Massachusetts, There IS Such a Thing as a Free Lunch (Again)


After years of state governments, universities, and professional societies all tightening their restrictions around gift-giving to physicians, Massachusetts has gone in the other direction.

In 2008, Massachusetts lawmakers passed one of the nation’s strictest gift bans, which limited gifts, meals, and entertainment from the drug and device industry and imposed public disclosure requirements. But on July 8, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) loosened things up.

Photo © littleny - Fotolia.comt

The revisions, which were part of a state budget bill, now allow drug and device makers to pay for "modest" meals and refreshments for physicians in connection with informational sessions. Pitches can be made anywhere that is "conducive to information communication," so modest meals could occur in restaurants, not just hospital conference rooms. Still, these turkey sandwiches and the like will need to be reported to the state. The changes do not apply to continuing medical education.

The new law will also allow device companies to offer technical training to physicians before they buy the equipment.

Not everyone is pleased. Health Care For All, AARP Massachusetts, the American Medical Student Association, and the National Physicians Alliance all condemned the move, saying it would be a boon for the restaurant industry and drug companies, but would undermine the trust between doctors and patients.

But device group AdvaMed defended the law, saying it would provide more flexibility so that physicians could learn to use the latest technology.

–Mary Ellen Schneider (on twitter @MaryEllenNY)

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