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Rx Gift Ban: Just the Facts

Should consumers foot the bill for free lunches and other perks that drug companies give prescribers? AARP says no.

Under attack since inception in 2008, the state’s Rx Gift Ban law is once again at risk. As part of the Fiscal Year 2012 state budget debate, the Massachusetts House voted to repeal the Rx Gift Ban Law, which restricts drug company marketing practices. Meanwhile, another bill currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business – Senate Bill 1849, An Act Relative to Restaurant Rejuvenation – would seriously weaken the law.

AARP strongly supports the Rx Gift Ban law as one way to help drive down spiraling prescription drug costs – and is fighting to protect consumers. Today, an undisclosed portion of the pharmaceutical industry’s budget goes towards drug marketing, to physicians, which can influence brand selection and prescription rates.

A recent survey in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 94 percent of physicians have received gifts or payments from the industry. AARP believes: We must protect the Rx Gift Ban law because voluntary industry codes have proved insufficient in curbing these trends – the costs of which are passed on to consumers.

What does the law say?

The Rx Gift Ban law covers health care practitioners, pharmaceutical or other medical device manufacturer agents, companies and marketers. It prohibits them from conducting certain marketing practices, including payments for prescribers’ meals that are:

  • part of an entertainment or recreational event
  • offered without an informational presentation
  • are outside the office or hospital setting
  • provided to spouses or guests

Drug and medical device companies must disclose information about meals, gifts or perks given to a prescriber, in excess of $50, to the Department of Public Health by July 1 each year.

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