Mass. Eyeballing Major Promotional Changes for Pharma

Dec 17, 2008

The Massachusetts Public Health Council, last week, publicly announced its plan to drastically limit what pharmaceutical and medical device firms can and cannot do in terms of marketing to physicians.

If the new rules are approved, pharma companies won’t be able to:
• Hand out free tickets to any entertainment or sporting event
• Disperse gifts, including pens, mugs, and calendars
• Feed spouses or guests of physicians; meals must be heavily restricted and can’t be offered outside the doctor’s work environment

“Our goal in drafting these regulations was to uphold the intent of the law passed ... last August; namely, to curb any inappropriate influence of industry sales and marketing activities on the independent clinical judgment of health care providers in the Commonwealth,” stated Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach in a release.

 The Massachusetts’s Department of Public Health was required to create these proposed regulations in response to legislation passed in August calling for healthcare reform. “The goal of the regulations is to try to improve the quality of healthcare in [Massachusetts] while trying to control cost,” said John Jacob, spokesperson for the Mass Department of Public Health. “We are trying to drive out as many hidden costs from the health services field as we can.”

Jacobs told Pharm Exec that the state is trying to curb any kind of financial incentive that could persuade healthcare providers to prescribe particular drugs or healthcare devices unnecessarily or instead of a cheaper alternative. 

While at least six other states have enacted similar regulations, Massachusetts’s officials are touting their code of conduct as one of the strictest in the nation. The state Web site lists a litany of regulatory firsts including initiatives that require disclosure of all drug samples and medical equipment under review, pubic record of all disclosure data, and the fact that Massachusetts is the only state to require pharma compliance under a marketing code of conduct.

Public hearings are scheduled for January 9 and 12.