KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Massachusetts Makes Drug And Medical Device Company Payments Public

The Boston Globe: "Massachusetts health officials published online yesterday the most comprehensive state database in the country listing payments drug companies and medical device makers have made to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and other health care providers. The report lists $35.7 million in payments from hundreds of companies for the six months between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2009 … About half of that money, or $16.4 million, went to physicians. This is the first time Massachusetts has made such information public. Under a law passed two years ago, any drug or device company doing business in the state is now required to report certain payments of $50 or more" and bans companies from giving gifts to doctors. "The Massachusetts database shows that 5,048 physicians, or about 12 percent of the state's doctors, received payments" (Lazar and Kowalczyk, 11/23).

The Associated Press/ The report also "said the payments included speaking and consulting fees, meals, and education and marketing programs. … Supporters say the law is designed to prevent companies from encouraging doctors to prescribe more expensive brand-name drugs rather than generics. Critics say the law is stifling research" (11/22).

Boston Herald:  The published figures "immediately sparked concerns about the effect on spiraling health-care costs and doctors' integrity. 'There's the potential for bias, and the potential for the increased cost of care,' said Tufts Medical School professor Dr. Jerome Kassirer, 'but the biggest concern is that the public just won't trust their doctors anymore.' … Many scientists defend the expenditures ... 'Education of health-care providers on these ever-changing treatments ensures that patients will receive the care they need and deserve,' said Robert Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. 'There is nothing nefarious about an expert health-care provider working to make this a reality'" (Crimaldi and McConville, 11/23).

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