Sounds like a children’s bedtime story, doesn’t it?
WBZ-TV in Boston reports, “Time To Reverse Pharmaceutical Gift Ban?”
Supporters say a gift ban was needed to change a too-cozy relationship between drug companies and doctors. But critics say it’s costing the Massachusetts economy millions.
“It is costing our state tens of millions of dollars in sales taxes, income taxes, meals taxes, and convention revenue,” says Dave Andelman of the Restaurant and Business Alliance.
Really? Tens of millions of dollars? Doesn’t such an extravagant claim require a little verification? Maybe the station did its homework to verify that number but none was provided to the viewing public.
Meantime, the story also profiled the tribulation of a local chocolate maker that, as a result of the ban, isn’t selling as many chocolate shoes – “a popular corporate gift.”
There’s a website, “Protect the MA Gift Ban,” that takes a bite out of the chocolate issue in these graphics:
Oddly, the TV station didn’t interview any doctors or patients. In the Boston Globe, Dr. Gordon Schiff wrote:
I was disappointed to read the remarks by a spokeswoman for Governor Patrick in support of lifting the pharmaceutical gift ban law. In the four years since the gift ban was enacted, patients have been protected from unethical marketing activities — activities that add unnecessary expense to each pill and lead to harmful patient outcomes when patients receive medication they may not need and experience serious side effects.
By banning pharmaceutical companies from treating doctors to lavish meals and extravagant conferences and requiring industry payments to be reported, the gift ban and disclosure law help ensure that physicians receive balanced and unbiased information on medications, new and old. As a result, patients are protected from drugs whose potential harms and side effects are not well understood, and physician prescribing is not skewed toward the latest and most expensive prescription drugs when generics or other equally efficacious drugs are available.
Massachusetts has been a pioneer in curbing the drug industry’s influence on physicians and preventing industry from dictating what is best for our health. We should all oppose any attempts to repeal this law, and should preserve our ability to access health care free from conflicts of interest.