Health News Review

Sounds like a children’s bedtime story, doesn’t it?

WBZ-TV in Boston reports, “Time To Reverse Pharmaceutical Gift Ban?

Excerpt:

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.

Comments

aek posted on June 27, 2012 at 10:27 am

The science is pretty solid around the concept that direct marketing reliably influences choices of the targeted potential customers. That physicians continue to believe that they are immune from this effect is disappointing. There are also studies using decent methodology which demonstrate that physicians across practice and research specialties are indeed influenced by pharma marketing.

Academic detailing seems to have a lot of benefits without these negative influencing effects. It would be useful to give this more media play and more attention in the medical literature.

CountyRat, RN posted on June 27, 2012 at 10:32 am

“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.”
O.K. Let’s think about that. If the statement is true, then “pills” in Massachusetts have become cheaper and patient outcomes have improved. These are both testable propositions, but Schiff offers no data to support them (at least not in the quoted material, to be fair). If these desirable results have been observed, please give us the numbers. If they have not, well, draw your own conclusion.
I grow weary of law and policy promulgated to make us feel good because, “at least we did SOMETHING!” No. Doing something is commendable only when what is done produces good results. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels in the mud, and then congratulating ourselves on how far we must have travelled, because, after all, the wheels are spinning, so we must have done something.

Mary Arneson posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

Chocolate shoes! Maybe someone should throw them at the advocates of repealing the gift ban. I was never comfortable with freebies, and it has been a great relief to have them gone.

Silly Laws posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

HARVARD STUDY proves Sunshine Laws Have Little Effect on Prescribing — WBUR/NPR
http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2012/05/sunshine-laws-prescribin

    Gary Schwitzer posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

    In the spirit of what we do every day on this site, I would urge caution about assigning “proof” to any one study.

Silly Laws posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

Drug prices have gone UP not down since the ban was put in place.

Massachusetts is the ONLY state with this ban.

Wait, what? posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

A doctors is coruptable by a chicken dinner, but politicians who raise THOUSANDS of dollars from special interests are not?

    Gary Schwitzer posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Who says that politicians who raise thousands of dollars from special interests are not?