In March, the Massachusetts State Senate unveiled a far-reaching healthcare reform bill that would, among other provisions, impose a ban on all gifts to healthcare providers and their immediate family members. The gift ban provision of the billtitled An Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency, and Efficiency in the Delivery of Quality Healthcare (S 2526)would apply to medical device manufacturers as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
The state senate passed the legislation on April 17, leaving the gift ban provision intact, says Tom Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMedic; Boston). "In addition, an amendment was approved that would establish a licensing procedure that would require sales reps and any other life sciences company reps to obtain a license and pay an annual fee of $500 to interact with healthcare professionals in the state," Sommer says. "We're working with key members of the Massachusetts House to knock this provision out of the bill."
Violations of the ban could be punished through fines of up to $5000, by imprisonment for no more than two years, or both.
Following the bill's introduction in the Senate, MassMedic sent a letter to all members of the Massachusetts State Senate. In it, Sommer voiced strong opposition to the gift ban provision of S 2526 and urged the senate to allow medical device companies to incur reasonable expenses related to medical device education and training for healthcare professionals.
In the letter, Sommer stated, "While MassMedic applauds the Senate's efforts to contain healthcare costs and promote transparency in the healthcare system, we are concerned that Section 22 of the legislation, the Pharmaceutical Industry Gift Ban, will have a negative effect on the ability of medical device manufacturers to provide the training and education necessary to operate a range of innovative medical products. MassMedic is also concerned that this language would criminalize ordinary business practices such as providing refreshments at an educational seminar."
Sommer also pointed to the fact that many companies within the device industry have already adopted voluntary codessuch as the Code of Ethics on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals developed by industry association AdvaMed (Washington, DC)that limit gifts and prohibit payments to healthcare purchasers and providers.