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 A year after the Bay state became the first place in this country to pass a comprehensive bill addressing prescription drug marketing, the commonwealth is taking stock. The bill’s impact cannot be understated for its impact on industry. Two major trade organizations, PhRMA and AdvoMed, the people who sell prescription drugs and medical devices have introduced their own industry wide codes of conduct, as a way to mute ethical concerns. In addition, Vermont has passed its own set of rules policing prescription drug marketing joining Massachusetts over the course of this past year. (The Vermont rules generally are considered to be more stringent than the Massachusetts law)

The jury is still out as to what this policing actually means to consumers. Doctors in Massachusetts and Vermont report incidents of being precluded from various educational opportunities like conferences, and speaking fees because drug companies would be forced to disclose their participation and place a monetary value on these activities.

The Massachusetts law placed the burden of disclosure on the doctors. Treators will need to disclose all of their gifts and enticements from the device and prescription drug industry exceeding $50 in aggregate over the course of the 2009 calendar year.  The new law mandates that these gifts will be disclosed to the public. Doctors and other treators will disclose annually to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. State DPH is in the process of creating a searchable database.

While it is unknown at this point whether, this process will necessarily produce better medical outcomes, but it will produce more transparency for consumers. Disclosure bills like those passed in Massachusetts and Vermont are intended to help inform patient decision-making. One year on it seems that Massachusetts has earned an incomplete with respect to its disclosure law. That said however, as the state ramps up its reporting infrastructure we should all get a better sense of whether Beacon Hill hit its mark.

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