As the dust settles around the Senate’s budget, we want to extend our deep appreciation to the Senate for defeating amendment 291. Late last night, Senators Chandler, Montigny and Moore eloquently and passionately defended the state’s ban on pharma industry marketing gifts to doctors. This amendment would have gutted a major provision of the pharmaceutical and medical device company gift ban and allow these companies to wine and dine prescribers, and their family and friends, in high-end restaurants. Under the Massachusetts drug reform law, companies are allowed to provide modest meals as part of educational sessions in a prescriber’s office.
Expensive meals, entertainment, exotic trips, free gifts- these are all marketing ploys used by the pharmaceutical and medical device industry to convince a doctor to prescribe their high-priced brand name drugs instead of a generic. The pharmaceutical and medical device industries spend billions of dollars each year marketing their products to doctors – money that is not spent researching and developing life-saving treatments. These gifts have been proven influential and limiting them prevents the industry from getting between a patient and his or her doctor. There is no good reason for a drug or device company to come between a patient and their doctor when they are making a treatment decision.
As the Boston Globe wrote last fall: “Patients trust doctors as stewards of their health. They revere them as scientists who can exercise sound, independent judgment. Allowing doctors to promote drugs for pharmaceutical companies takes advantage of that trust and reverence. It also compromises doctors’ most important work: treating people who are ill.”
We should not compromise our ethics just because the industry has compromised theirs.