Two New England States Ban Company Gifts to Docs

Beginning today, Vermont and Massachusetts have banned pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies from giving doctors gifts. This means no more high priced vacations, meals, or even trinkets. Vermont has taken it one step further by barring such companies from providing meals to doctors. Massachusetts has restricted the practice.
The new laws taking effect today are part of a nationwide effort to remove the conflictual links between doctors and medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies. Hopefully, along with the gift ban a heightened form of transparency will be seen in dealings between doctors and these companies.
For far too long, doctors and researchers were paid handsomely to do research, write favorable articles, and use the drugs and devices that were manufactured by the same companies lavishing gifts and money on the doctors. In the medical world, it was a dangerous game of pay for play that wound up costing the consumer in confidence and safety.
For instance, Medtronic, a leading medical device manufacturer, agreed to pay $40 million in 2006 because of allegations it paid doctors to use their spine products. In 2004, Pfizer pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid $430 million in wrongdoing concerning the marketing of its drug Neurontin.
In the end, criminal charges and stiff penalties were never enough to stem the tide of pay for play. The medical device companies and pharmaceutical industry were large enough and awash with enough cash to absorb such penalties. Often, these costs were passed on to the consumer in the form of higher drug prices and explained as the cost of doing business.
The new legislative efforts at banning conflict of interest relationships between doctors and these companies gets to the heart of the matter. If there’s a ban on such practice, there’s no pay for play and no loophole. The law bans such practices. It’s about time.