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Do You Want to Pay For Your Doctor’s Free Lunch?

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

Under attack since its inception in 2008, the state’s Rx Gift Ban law, which restricts drug company marketing practices, is once again at risk. House Bill 1507, An Act to Improving Health Care Quality and Cost in the Medical Device Industry, is currently making its way through the state legislature.

See Also: Rx Resources for MA Residents 

AARP Massachusetts has urged legislative leaders to protect the Rx Gift Ban law and not pass this bill, saying “Massachusetts consumers cannot afford for the Commonwealth to take a step backwards in addressing the high cost of health care.” Five other related bills are also in the works.

Last year, as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 state budget debate, AARP successfully fought efforts to repeal the Rx Gift Ban law. AARP also opposed Senate Bill 1849, An Act Relative to Restaurant Rejuvenation, which would have seriously weakened 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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