A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Prescription Drug Reform

Guess What? Docs Prescribe Drugs They Are Paid To Promote.

ProPublica is a non-profit news group dedicated to public interest investigative journalism. Their reporters matched for the first time federal data on payments from drug companies to prescribers and records on drugs prescribed by doctors to their Medicare patients. Until now, this has been secret information, known to the drug industry, but not the public. The report exposed some troubling drugmaker marketing strategies. ProPublica looked into why expensive name brand drugs are prescribed so often when significantly cheaper generics are proven to be just as effective. By examining the... Read more »

Happy Fiscal New Year! House, Senate Send FY 2014 Budget to Governor, With Some Good News for MassHealth Dental Coverage

Today the House and Senate sent to the Governor the FY 2014 budget (giant pdf), which  was filed by the joint conference committee late last night. Any minute now, we'll get a detailed report from our friends at the Mass Budget and Policy Center, and we'll post a link and any updates as they do their analysis. (Update: their analysis is here) But we were smiling when we turned first to the Medicaid line items. Smiling, of course, because the final budget includes $17.2 million to restore coverage for dental fillings for adults in the MassHealth program. These funds should allow the MassHealth... Read more »

Save Money? Improve Care? What's Not To Like? Support Academic Detailing in Budget.

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “Healing the Overwhelmed Physician,” Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Jerry Avorn highlights how "academic detailing" can both save money and improve patient care.  The House-Senate conference now meeting to finalize the state budget should support the Senate's move to fund this program, which could save some $3 million for MassHealth. Avorn explains how busy physicians struggle to keep up with the steady influx of medical information that is published each week. Modern medicine offers many choices—but this puts a burden on doctors to sort through the... Read more »

Senate Budget Debate Starts Wednesday - Here's Our Amendment Recommendations

Tomorrow the state Senate will begin debating its version of the state budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1. Like the House budget did, the Senate Ways and Means version starts out with a strong commitment to building on the state's health coverage reforms through implementation of the ACA, and some substantial deficiencies in funding for health care programs. The best overview of the Senate budget comes, of course, from the Mass Budget and Policy Center. The overview notes the continued decline in support for public health: Read more »

Public Health Council Fails To Tighten Pharma "Modest Meals" Regulation

Despite widespread opposition among Council members, the Public Health Council voted this morning to enact final regulations on meals provided by the drug and device industry to doctors and other prescribers. The regulations approved today keep intact the expansive, subjective definition of "modest" meals, as whatever a doctor would order on his or her own. The regulations also permit drug sales teams to provide free alcoholic beverages to doctors at drug industry "educational" sessions. Although a number of motions were made to ban alcohol and limit the amount spent on meals, they were not... Read more »

D-Day Tomorrow For Pharma Gift Ban Market Regulations

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday 11/21), the Public Health Council will be voting on final regulations implementing the changes to the pharma gift ban and marketing regulations. Over the summer, the legislature changed the law to allow drug and device companies to provide "modest" meals to doctors and other prescribers. The initial rule, which was widely criticized by consumer and medical groups (but supported by restaurants and pharma industry) defines modest as anything a doctor might order on his or her own tab, including alcoholic drinks. State law empowers the members of the Public Health... Read more »

Legislature: "Only Modest Meals." DPH: "Order Whatever You'd Like. The Bar is Open!"

Today the Department of Public Health approved temporary regulations that make a mockery of the legislature's changes to the state's drug and device marketing restrictions, further eroding doctor-patient protections (see joint press release from HCFA, AARP, MassPIRG and Community Catalyst (pdf)). Read more »

Governor Patrick: Please Veto Gift Ban Loophole Provision in Budget

Glaxo-Smith-Kline's ‘pheasant hunting junkets in Europe’ and other illegal kickbacks to doctors show that the strongest possible ban on inappropriate gifts is needed. (Guest commentary by Wells Wilkinson, from Community Catalyst's Prescription Access Litigation Project) Yesterday’s new record-breaking settlement of $3 billion with Glaxo-Smith-Kline provides even stronger proof that the Massachusetts ban on inappropriate drug industry gifts to doctors is essential to preserving the integrity of patient care.  The settlement and related documents revealed that GSK salepeople paid or compensated... Read more »

Big Foot Enters: Lobbying Efforts Intensifying on Prescription Drug Marketing Gift Ban

AARP is the largest membership organization in the Commonwealth, with over 800,000 members in Massachusetts. With state budget conferees about to make the final decision on the prescription drug marketing gift ban, they have revved up their engines for a huge lobbying push. Their activities include thousands of calls and emails to their members, asking them to contact legislative leaders. They've also started drive-time radio ads on WBZ. Listen: Read more »


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