The Anne Hathaway/Jake Gyllenhaal movie Love and Other Drugs uncovers many things [not safe for work], including over-the-top portrayals of drug reps “entertaining” doctors. Fictionalized accounts aside, we know the industry spends billions on personal marketing through drug reps (PLoS Medicine) and that the industry prefers to hire former cheerleaders (NYT).
In 2008, Massachusetts authorized the Department of Public Health to regulate drug and device company gifts to physicians in new Chapter 111N. The rules that eventually emerged were weaker than expected, due to company lobbying, but they surprised some pundits by surviving at all (WSJ). Meals and entertainment without clinical content presentations (Red Sox luxury boxes? Fancy dinners?) are forbidden, and many payments to Massachusetts doctors are reported to a public database.
Yesterday, the drug and device industry got it’s way and convinced all of the Republicans and some of the Democrats in the Massachusetts House to repeal the law (Boston Herald). The proffered reason? Economic stimulus:
“We need every opportunity possible in order to generate revenue for our economy,” said Rep. Todd Smola (R-Palmer).
Utter nonsense – the rules don’t discourage medical conventions in Massachusetts. They apply to Massachusetts doctors anywhere in the world. Drug and device companies can’t fly them to Cancun or drive to a casino in Connecticut in order to avoid the rules. Nor do the rules apply to docs from other states who visit Massachusetts during a convention. They only apply to prescribers licensed in Massachusetts.
Update: fixed a broken link