A Healthy Blog

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

Prescription Drug Reform

Happy [Prescription Drug Marketing Transparency] New Year!

As we do every July 1, we celebrate the state's fiscal new year by highlighting the new laws that take effect today. Last year, on July 1, 2009, our restrictions on major gifts to physicians from pharmaceutical and medical device industry took effect. Today, those industries must file compliance forms with the Department of Public Health. The reports will detail payments made by the firms to doctors. The disclosure will allow patients the opportunity to know if their doctor is on the payroll of one or more of the drug companies (see a case study, unveiled by channel 5 last fall). We know that... Read more »

Budget Conference: You Can Close The Bridge, But People Still Need To Cross The River

The House and Senate conferees reported their FY 2011 budget last night (full text; Globe coverage). Facing no good choices, the conference budget makes deep cuts in health programs, along with many other areas of state government we all rely on. The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the budget this afternoon. This post summarizes our initial read of the budget document; we'll update it during the day as we better understand the implications of the budget. [Update - the always authoritative Mass Budget and Policy Center analysis is here, and their health care discussion is here.] Read more »

Data Shows that Recession, Not Pharma Gift Ban, is Issue for Restaurants

The restaurant industry and drug and device companies are trying to repeal the Commonwealth's landmark drug industry marketing restrictions. The gift ban prevents drug and device companies from wining-and-dining doctors to get them to prescribe brand-name drugs. Repealing this provision will gut a critical piece of Massachusetts’ cost containment efforts. Although some argue that the gift ban is crippling profits in the Massachusetts restaurant industry, no empirical evidence has been presented to show that the ban is to blame. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association contends that "the ‘... Read more »

Health Bills Move/Die in Legislature

The Health Care Financing Committee polled members on 44 bills Tuesday afternoon, cleaning out most of their inventory of bills for this session. Click here to see a list of the poll results. We were disappointed that the Committee recommended to study a number of important bills. Sending a bill to study in effect kills the bill for the session. A number of these bills would have no cost to the Commonwealth and could be advanced despite the fiscal crunch. Among the bills sent to study were: Read more »

Uphold the Pharmaceutical Marketing Gift Ban

The Massachusetts pharmaceutical and medical device gift ban, which bars sales representatives from wining-and-dining physicians to coerce them into purchasing brand name drugs, went into effect in 2009, but nevertheless remains a controversial topic between the pharmaceutical industry and health care advocates. The gift ban is absolutely necessary for the effective, appropriate and ethical delivery of health care. The gift ban drives down the cost of health care for everyone. The pharmaceutical industry invests over $6 billion a year nationwide in direct-to-physician marketing, and on... Read more »

Drug coupons still not a good deal

While everyone wants less expensive drugs, is giving in to pharma's marketing tactics the way the go? That's one of the questions  highlighted by a recent letter to the editor in the Newburyport News. The letter looked at the prescription drug "coupon" bill that passed the House.  H. 4689 would permit drug discount coupons in the Commonwealth. Sounds appealing, but  there are many unanswered questions: "If a pharmaceutical company can afford to sell a drug for less (as it did for Joe, with his coupon), why doesn't it sell it for less to everyone, without coupons? Are other patients... Read more »

Thank you Senate for upholding pharma gifts ban

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... Read more »

AARP Alert: Seniors’ Prescriptions; MassHealth Dental Benefits at Risk

Deborah Banda, State Director of AARP Massachusetts sent over their latest alert, which we fully endorse: As the Massachusetts Senate begins its debate on the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget, Senators need to hear from you. At risk: Funding that helps seniors afford their prescriptions, and dental health benefits for adults with low-incomes. Whether you rely on these benefits, know someone who does, or feel compelled to speak out for those who most need our help, please call 1-888-259-9789 today. Ask your Senator to restore funding to Prescription Advantage, the state’s pharmacy assistance... Read more »

Data Mining Ban Bill Pending

Massachusetts should ban prescription drug data mining. This week, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing has the opportunity to get us one step closer to that ban. S. 17/H. 109 will prevent pharmaceutical companies from buying doctors’ prescribing records from pharmacies and using that information to target their marketing to physicians (check out this video for an explanation). As the US District Court said: “[c]oincident with the phenomenon of ‘data mining,’ pharmaceutical industry spending on direct marketing has increased exponentially.” The pharmaceutical industry spends... Read more »

Who Gets Helped By Prescription Drug Coupons?

“[Prescription drug coupons are] a marketing tool, which pharmaceutical companies use to introduce and expand the use of brand-name drugs,” according to GIC Executive Director Dolores Mitchell, commenting in yesterday's Herald on the latest attempts to override the existing ban on these programs in Massachusetts. We agree. Read more »

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