Life Science Compliance Update

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January 21, 2009

Massachusetts Gift Rules: AAAI Convention says Adios Boston

According to The Boston Herald, at least one major medical group has canceled a multimillion-dollar convention in Boston, citing the state’s new law cracking down on free gifts, meals and other goodies handed out to doctors by the pharmaceutical industry as the reason.

Other life-sciences groups, meanwhile, are sending strong signals that they also will not hold conventions in Boston as long as the state’s new law remains unclear and out of sync with industry gift-giving standards.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the executive director of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology said it was pulling out of its 2015 convention contract in Boston because it is “very difficult” to find sponsorships and to provide education courses under current legal conditions.

“The reevaluation of Boston as an annual meeting destination was prompted by the current laws in Massachusetts,” Kay Whalen, executive director of the AAAAI, wrote in her letter.

The group’s move will likely cost Boston businesses millions of dollars, as AAAAI shifts its 8,000 attendee show to another city and cancels thousands of hotel bookings in Boston.

In an interview, Whalen, whose group helps manage other medical associations, said she knows of other life-sciences organizations that are writing off Boston as a convention destination.

One of them is the American Society of Gene Therapy, which has management links with AAAAI.

The gene-therapy society’s President, Dr. David M. Bodine, said yesterday his group - which held a meeting in Boston last year - would “love to return” to the Hub.  However, the new law discourages convention events, such as continuing education classes, he said.

Last year, lawmakers passed the law, with the hope that banning gifts from industry groups to doctors would help control health-care costs and reduce needless use of expensive medical devices and drugs.  The ban applies to meals, drinks, trips, and presents.

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care for All, which backs the gift ban, defended the new law and predicted other states will catch-up to Massachusetts’ gift-ban rules by 2015.

The AAAI has serious problems with the Massachusetts law effect on conventions: "The board was also concerned about any additional legislation that may be passed prior to the 2015 meeting," the letter said. "Therefore, the board felt it may no longer be financially feasible to hold the annual meeting in Boston."

Poster sessions which include industry personnel presenting posters no longer meet the ACCME standards for commercial support, so that the Association is as of this year no longer offering CME for those sessions.  The Massachusetts law prohibits education that is not accredited, thereby outlawing poster sessions.

This sends a clear signal to The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that there are unintended consequences for draconian restrictions and puts other states on notice that adoption of similar rules will have similar unintended consequences. 

Medpage Today:  Medical Group Pulls Meeting from Boston of State Ethics Laws

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