Life Science Compliance Update

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June 19, 2008

Massachusetts S2660 – The Sun is Shining in San Diego

Recently, we reported that it would be cloudy for the Massachusetts delegation at BIO 2008. Massachusetts S2660 – San Diego Here We Come.

According to the State News Service, The controversial Senate plan (S 2660) which forbids gifts from pharmaceutical companies to health care workers appears unlikely to survive intact, as Massachusetts state leaders have caught an earful from industry executives while attending an international biotechnology convention this week.

The plan’s leading proponent, Senate President Therese Murray, said researchers have told her the ban would prevent productive interactions between doctors and researchers who are trying to treat the same diseases.

“It’s something that we didn’t discuss when we did it, because we were looking purely at gifts to doctors,” Murray said in a telephone interview with the News Service. “But the fact is that some of these companies do bring researchers and doctors together to go over the latest research.”

“Through what we did, in their explaining, there are many things they won’t be able to do that are important to science,” she said.

Murray said she still wanted increased transparency requirements and an end to excessive gift-giving.

“If we can work out some kind of language that still allows the science but stops the egregious marketing, then I think we’ll be OK, but it’s going to take a little time,” she said.

Murray, Gov. Deval Patrick, and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi urged an international audience of 250 people here Wednesday to forge business partnerships in Massachusetts.

While the majority of feedback about Massachusetts has been positive, DiMasi said, some pharmaceutical companies have voiced worries about the gift ban, which Murray has pushed as part of her health care cost control package.

The restriction would be the country’s strongest, forbidding all gifts of value from pharmaceutical company agents to health care workers or the workers’ families. The pharmaceutical industry has fought back, arguing the gifts often allow doctors to learn more about products, and that the ban would have a chilling effect on the industry’s growth here.

Murray reported that most of the pushback she has heard has come from research firms, saying, “It wasn’t Big Pharma, these are research scientists.”

She said prospective reforms could include requiring doctors who write in medical journals to disclose whether and how they were compensated. “There has to be transparency and there has to be some kind of language that protects the consumer, and the state, frankly,” she said.

One newspaper the Quincy Patriot Ledger notes that “Murray said she expects the House will release its version of the bill by the end of June, leaving only one month before lawmakers adjourn from formal sessions for the year on July 31.”

It is important for all state legislators considering these “gift bans” to consider the “unintended consequences “of such bills.  We applaud Senator Murray and the other leaders from Massachusetts for being open minded on this issue, and believe that they are now focused on the right things (better medicine and more transparency without penalizing scientific exchange of information).


Asked about the gift ban at a forum in Boston this morning, Patrick chief of staff Doug Rubin said the administration was taking a "wait-and-see approach" and picking up the issue would be “premature.”

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