Restaurateurs join call to lift MA gift ban

Restaurant owners in Massachusetts are once again calling on lawmakers to lift the ban on pharma gifts. Whether they'll succeed this time is anyone's guess, but their plea for a partial rollback of the prohibition--which would allow drugmakers to sponsor restaurant meals again--is the less drastic of two now-pending efforts to change the ban.

Ever since the gift ban went into effect in 2008, eateries have been complaining about losing the chance to put on fancy dinners for doctors on pharma's dime. As the Boston Globe reports, restaurateurs yesterday appeared before a legislative committee to ask for the chance to once again host drugmaker events.

Some of the lawmakers appeared to agree. "It's creating the burden on the small businessman," said one Republican rep, but others disputed the idea that lost restaurant business was an "unintended consequence" of the law. "The corruption of the sacred doctor-patient relationship by the pharmaceutical industry by schmoozing at fancy restaurants is exactly the consequence that the law was intended to prevent," said the original ban's sponsor, Sen. Mark Montigny.

The bill under discussion would change the current ban's provision allowing reps to bring meals to doctors in their offices or at hospitals, so long as the meal didn't cost more than $50. Sponsor Sen. Anthony Petruccelli says he sees no difference between allowing meals in the office and allowing similar meals in a restaurant, where the business owner can benefit.

- see the Globe story