A Healthy Blog

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

Prescription Drug Reform

Governor Signs Supp Budget, Delaying Closing of Individual Enrollment; Funding MassHealth, Academic Detailing and more

This afternoon Governor Patrick signed the supplemental budget bill that had been held up for several weeks. The law includes several outside sections that alter the implementation dates of this summer's Chapter 288 - the small business cost containment bill. The biggest change for consumers is in the open enrollment provisions. As we discussed here, this provision changes the rules for our insurance market. Under chapter 288, individuals can no longer purchase coverage continuously, but are restricted to two open enrollment periods for 2011: January 1-February 15 and July 1-August 15. Read more »

Doughnut Hole Calculator Helps Medicare Patients Save Dough

AARP recently created a Medicare Doughnut Hole Calculator for its website - at doughnuthole.aarp.org. The calculator takes users through a four-step process to input the name of their plan and their current prescriptions, including dosages and frequency. It then calculates the likelihood that an individual will hit the “Doughnut Hole” gap in Medicare coverage and provides a printable list of lower cost drugs as alternatives to an individual’s current prescriptions. Read more »

What do gifts to physicians buy? A Whole Forest

Forest Pharmaceuticals is the latest pharmaceutical company plead guilty to a criminal felony and pay millions to settle their case. According to the Department of Justice settlement made last month, Forest use marketing and gifts to drive sales of an unapproved drug, Levothroid, despite a 2003 warning letter from the FDA. The FDA specifically instructed Forest to scale back sales by 30% until they received FDA approval, yet Forest had a sales increase of 128% in this time period. After receiving the warning letter they “directed employees…to work overtime until approximately 1:00 a.m. the... Read more »

Globe Editorial Agrees: Pharma Funding Fosters Conflicts Of Interest

Today’s lead Globe editorial highlights the journal article we posted about yesterday, and agrees with our conclusion: Read more »

Studies: Industry-Funded Research Produces Bias, and Is Not Always Disclosed

What should we know about medical researcher's financial ties, and when should we know it? Two new studies demonstrate the real risk of bias when industry pays for scientific studies, and the sad fact that much of these connections are never disclosed. The studies appeared in the latest Archives of Internal Medicine. Read more »

The Final Countdown

UPDATE 4:00 pm Friday: State House News Service is reporting that the conference committee compromise preserves the pharma and medical device gift ban and marketing restrictions. HCFA thanks the conferees and the House and Senate leadership for their support. Time is short, so we’ll be brief: With a day and a half remaining in the formal legislative sessions, it's now or never for anything controversial. The small business/individual health care premium cost control bill is the most important health priority in the pipeline. We hear the conference committee is making progress and we look... Read more »

Drug and Device Marketing Gift Ban and Disclosure Law In The Balance: Act Now

HCFA urges the legislature to put patients first and not repeal the drug and device gift ban and disclosure law. Section 105 in the House version of the the Economic Reorganization Bill would repeal Massachusetts’ groundbreaking drug and device marketing gift ban. HCFA urges Massachusetts residents to contact their Senator and Representative and tell them that they do not want pharmaceutical and medical device company marketing practices to come between patients and their doctors. Currently, the gift ban and disclosure law forbids pharmaceutical representatives from wining-and-dining... Read more »

House Advances Short-Term Small Group Cost Control Bill

UPDATE: HCFA also supports the provisions that restrict unfair contracting practices (those enumerated in s. 36 of the bill) and simplify the administration of health benefits. Controlling the growth in health care costs is the most important challenge facing Massachusetts. It is critical to balancing our state budget and stabilizing local budgets. Increasing insurance premiums are breaking the budgets of small businesses and stifling employers’ abilities to increase wages, hire new workers and expand our state’s economy. For individuals, the galloping cost of coverage prices too many out of... Read more »

Look Who's Talking About the Gift Ban Too

The House vote last week to repeal the entire General laws chapter containing the pharma and medical device marketing restrictions got a lot of talk time today. The provision was added on to the financial regulatory reorganization bill. In the Senate chamber, the Senate voted to appoint a conference committee to reconcile their bill with the House version. Senators Spilka, Downing and Tarr were named to the conference. In the course of the debate on the motion, Senator Montigny, a long-time champion of reform of the excesses of pharma marketing, made clear that the Senate was not going to... Read more »

Act Today To Protect Pharma/Med Device Gift Ban!

The Gift Ban, which prevents drug and device companies from wining-and-dining doctors to get them to prescribe expensive brand-name drugs, is in jeopardy! The House will vote today a provision (section 105 of H. 4820), which would entirely repeal the gift ban and disclosure law by striking Chapter 111N. Please call your Representative today and ask them to support amendment #45, which will strike this provision. The Boston Globe calls the gift ban "one of the smartest steps Massachusetts has taken to get health costs under control." • The gift ban prevents drug and medical devices companies... Read more »


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