News Release

LEGISLATURE PASSES RX DRUG MARKETING REFORMS AND OTHER MEASURES TO CONTROL HEALTH CARE COSTS

For Immediate Release

The legislature enacted and sent to the Governor last night a Health Care Cost Control Bill that will begin to reign in aggressive and inappropriate marketing tactics by drug companies and medical device companies.  Those excessive marketing tactics have resulted in excessive prescription drug costs and compromised care.  Direct-to-physician industry marketing promotes the prescribing of expensive drugs in place of equally safe and effective lower-cost drugs and the prescribing of newer brand name drugs that have the least safety and efficacy information. The excessive marketing of Vioxx, for example, led to the prescribing of a new drug that ended up causing unforeseen heart problems that killed 40,000 people.

“While the bill does not include a complete ban on industry gifts to prescribers it does make a giant step forward in shining the light on this marketing practice through the disclosure of anything of more than $50 value, giving the DPH authority to ban some gifts, and including significant fines for violations of the new regulations,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director of MASSPIRG. 

The final bill also included the following cost control reforms:

RX Drug Marketing Regulations: Requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose payments to health care providers of $50 or above to DPH which will make the disclosures publicly available. Directs DPH to establish regulations on pharmaceutical and medical device marketing, using the industry’s own Code as a minimum standard, and establishes a $5000 penalty for violation, enforceable by the Attorney General.

Creation of an Academic Detailing Program:  A much needed counterweight to the industry’s commercial detailing and gift-giving marketing efforts.  Academic detailing programs are cost-effective ways to improve physician prescribing behavior and so reduce health care costs:  Based on other states’ experiences with academic detailing programs, Massachusetts can expect to save two to three dollars for every dollar we spend on academic detailing. 

Use of Uniform Claim Codes:  Currently, nearly one-third of all dollars spent on health care go toward administrative costs – and much of that is wasted on managing the tangle of bureaucratic claim codes created by different insurance plans.  Conservative estimates project that the adoption of uniform claim codes will save Massachusetts hospitals over $50 million annually in administrative costs.

Public Reporting of Healthcare-Associated Infections and Serious Reportable Events:  Requires facility-specific public reporting of infections, as already required in twenty-two other states and the reporting of, and allows for the nonpayment for, serious reportable events.

 Taken together, these provisions will begin to contain the cost of health care in the commonwealth helping Massachusetts citizens continue to have access to affordable health care.

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