As the halls of the Massachusetts State House are emptying out for the holidays, the pharmaceutical industry is working hard to push through special interest legislation when they think no one is paying attention. On Tuesday of this week, the Joint Committee on Public Health gave a favorable recommendation to H. 1507, a bill that would repeal most of the Prescription Drug Gift Ban and Disclosure Law, initially passed in 2008. This law limits drug industry salespeople from wining and dining physicians in order to promote the prescribing of their higher-cost, brand-name products. The law also requires annual reporting for these industries to disclose details about permitted payments made to physicians and other prescribers.
Now we’re concerned that this bill may go to the House floor next week, where it could pass without debate or a formal vote, and when many legislators are away for the holidays.
While repealing the Gift Ban may be a nice holiday gift for pharma, it certainly wouldn’t be the case for consumers across the Commonwealth. Repealing the ban would allow pharma to spend millions of dollars on fancy physician meals. These costs are ultimately passed on to individuals and families through higher copays and premiums.
In addition, repeal of the Gift Ban would compromise doctor-patient relationships. A patient shouldn’t have to wonder whether they are being prescribed a drug because it is useful, or because their doctor is influenced by benefits and perks provided by a manufacturer. Doctors have the duty to act in the best interest of their patients, not to help industry increase profits.
Health Care For All, as part of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition (MPRC), urges the members of the House to oppose H. 1507 and stand up for ethical marketing, transparency, and lower health care costs. So what’s on the top of our holiday wish list? We ask that drug marketing and industry profits do not come at the expense of patients.