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Mass. sets new rules for contact with drug industry

The state bans drug- and device-makers' gifts to doctors and forces pay disclosures.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted April 6, 2009

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Rules approved in March by the Massachusetts Public Health Council bar drug- and device-makers from providing gifts to physicians and require them to publicly disclose most payments to doctors exceeding $50.

The new regulations implement a state law enacted last year and bar industry gifts such as pens, notepads and food in physician offices. The restrictions are meant to reduce health care costs and physician conflicts of interest.

They require that payments of $50 or more to doctors for consulting, speaking and research designed to promote a particular product be publicly disclosed on a Web site searchable by physician name. The rules take effect in July, and the first public reporting of payments is due in 2010.

State health officials said the new rules ensure transparency about interactions between the drug industry and health care professionals.

Maine, Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia also have payment-disclosure laws. Massachusetts officials said the Bay State rules go further because the regulations more strictly define marketing activities and cover medical device firms as well as drugmakers.

Massachusetts Medical Society President Bruce Auerbach, MD, said in a statement that "it will take time to see exactly what the impact, implications and unintended consequences of these rules will be" in such areas as patient care and physician access to medical education.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's new voluntary code barring companies from providing pens and other "reminder items" took effect in January. The ban is the biggest change for PhRMA in a revised code on interactions with doctors and other health professionals.

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