Gift ban comes up for debate in Maryland

Maryland may join the gift-ban club if a new effort in the state legislature succeeds. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would outlaw gifts from pharma and device companies to doctors and other healthcare providers, aiming to curtail alleged industry influence. Of course, a proposed ban would come up for heated debate, as similar measures did in Massachusetts and Vermont.

In fact, Maryland has weighed a ban before, but those efforts didn't get very far, the Baltimore Sun reports. This time, however, lawmakers are inspired by scandal. A Baltimore cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, was accused last year of performing unnecessary stent procedures because of "indirect influence" from devicemaker Abbott Laboratories.

In addition to banning industry gifts, lawmakers are considering an accreditation program for cardiac catheterization labs and rule changes that would allow regulators to share information among agencies more easily.

If a gift ban measure comes up for vote, companies and doctors are likely to protest. Consider Massachusetts, where a gift ban won approval after months of acrimonious debate. Last year, the state legislature re-opened that fight as some lawmakers sought to repeal the ban. The effort failed.

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