House Votes For Wining And Dining Of Docs — What’s Your Reaction?

One Twitter headline this morning: “More corruption for health care.”

The lead news from the Massachusetts House of Representatives today is last night’s vote to limit municipal unions’ bargaining rights on health insurance. But this should not get lost in the shuffle: As The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald report, the House also voted to repeal the state’s ban on gifts to doctors from drug- and device-makers.

The rationale: the ban hurts the economy. The upshot: Let the wining and dining begin anew!

Backlash has already begun, in advance of the Senate’s expected vote on the issue in coming weeks. Our local AARP took quickly to its Internet guns on the issue. In a blog post, it concludes:

“Bottom line: The cost of free lunches and other perks for prescribers should not be footed by consumers who are struggling to afford their medication. AARP will fight to keep the gift ban on the books, and to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs. We urge the Senate to do the right thing, and protect the prescription drug company gift ban.”

And today’s Globe story, by excellent newcomer Chelsea Conaboy, concludes:

Gift-giving gives pharmaceutical companies an upper hand, said Eric Campbell, research director at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If repealing the law gives a little boost to restaurants and other businesses, he said, “does that become more important than ensuring the accuracy and the integrity and the quality of the information that health practitioners receive?’’

Readers, thoughts???

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  • Billy Rubin

    Hi Carey–
    You asked for our thoughts.
    Would “blech” do?

  • JohnnyBeagle

    In the USA, we have “used car salesmen” AKA “Detail Reps” pitching prescription drugs to professionals in the medical field who already have full access to all pertinent information. These carnival barkers add no value to the products or service but do add considerable costs that are ultimately paid for by all of us. While this is not the single reason our health care costs are the highest in the world, it is certainly one area that is easily identifiable and easily eliminated.

    No doubt some of the high end restaurants will see this as business loss as will the BMW and Lexus dealers who cater to the Detail Reps. In another country, I might reply that “my heart bleeds for them”, but here in the USA, I cannot afford it to.

    Our medical model is based on sales, not health. Drug reps get paid to sell drugs, not to make or keep people well. Any drug rep that tells you otherwise is delusional. They are no more interested in your health than Louie the Used Car Salesman is concerned about your ability to maintain reliable transportation. It’s the sale that matters, and only the sale. And for the record, I used to be a used car salesman – part of my 25+ years in sales.

    I will always remember my first interview for a job in sales. I was asked, “Do you like people?” My reply was, “People are people, I like money more”. I got the job.

  • Brian Rosman

    There’s no evidence whatsoever that the restrictions on marketing payments from the drug industry to doctors hurts the economy. The largest complaints comes from the restaurant industry, but state figures show 2010 was the best year in Massachusetts history for restaurant sales. The first 3 months of 2011 are even higher than the equivalent months of 2010.

    And, by the way, doctors and drug industry sales reps can still meet and hear sales pitches over a nice steak dinner at a fancy restaurant. The doctor just has to pay his or her own way.

    The other group that gripes is the convention industry. When they talk among themselves, convention officials acknowledge the marketing restrictions had zero impact on meetings. None. (Source: Medical Meetings Magazine, cited here:

    The legislature ought to understand this. Under Massachusetts law, lobbyists are strictly forbidden to provide anything of value to legislators. Extending the same restrictions to physicians is the right thing to do. More and more hospitals and physicians groups have come to understand this. The Massachusetts law just codifies what ought to be self-evident.