Massachusetts House tries to repeal gift ban again

The Massachusetts gift ban got another thumbs down in the state legislature. House members voted to repeal the ban, passed in 2008, with a 128-22 split. Lawmakers say that the law, which prohibits drugmakers from entertaining doctors and handing out promotional freebies, has hurt the local economy.

But the decision doesn't necessarily mean that the ban will be lifted. The House voted last year to repeal it, too, by adding the measure to an economic development bill, the Boston Globe reports. But the Massachusetts Senate blocked the repeal. This time, the ban repeal is attached to the House's budget bill; the Senate is working on its own budget proposal, expecting to vote next month.

Critics of the ban say that it hasn't helped to control healthcare costs--but it has curbed pharma spending at restaurants and has hurt Massachusetts convention centers. "We need every opportunity possible in order to generate revenue for our economy," Rep. Todd Smola said (as quoted by State House News Service).

Supporters, however, say that the state hasn't suffered from the ban. Proceeds from meal taxes have grown, they say, and there are plans to expand the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. "The only thing that's being hurt is the ability of the drug industry to market their high-priced drugs by wining and dining doctors at our expense," Brian Rosman of the consumer group Health Care for All told the Globe.

- see the story from the Globe