That's final: Mass. gift ban rules set

The Massachusetts ban on gifts to doctors got its final nod from state officials this week, setting in motion a sea change in the way pharma will be able to interact with physicians in the state. You'll recall that the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill enacting the gift ban and other restrictions, but the exact regulations had to be hammered out by the Department of Public Health. A host of lobbying organizations--including drug and biotech companies, doctors, and the hotel and convention industry--pressed for changes in the initial draft.

But no dice. The final regs are very close to what state officials proposed in December, the Boston Globe reports. Only two "substantive" changes: First, companies will have to disclose payments to doctors and hospitals for "seeding trials," or research designed to promote a particular product, but funding for research on "a scientific question" still won't be subject to disclosure. Second, companies will be allowed to offer financial assistance for residents and other trainees to attend conferences and education courses.

Consumer groups were happy about the final rules, but the rest of the vested interests aren't so sanguine. "Massachusetts is now seen as the most unfriendly state in the nation toward industry," the president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council told the Globe. "In these tough economic times, you don't want to send a chilling message to an industry that's a growth industry."

Some of the rules simply duplicate what drugmakers have begun to do voluntarily, anticipating a mandate. And they could be superseded soon by Congressional legislation governing gifts and disclosure. But for now, Massachusetts reps will have to proceed very, very carefully.

- read the Globe piece