States enact, consider tougher gifting laws between pharma and healthcare providers

While the restrictions of gifts and other interactions between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers have grown tighter in recent years, a proposed New York law will add almost 10 pages of new restrictions, or clarifications of others, including bans pharmaceutical companies funding continuing medical education. 

While there is a growing trend of corporate sponsorship for continuing medical education, this law would allow sponsorship only if the company is compliant in: separating CME grant-making functions from sales and marketing departments and those departments do not have any involvement in the CMS grants; has a bona fide educational program with objective criteria without "an inducement to prescribe or recommend a particular medicine or course of treatment"; and follows standards by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education or equivalent body.

A study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) examined the practice of giving gifts, meals and other incentives to physicians and found that this can influence prescribing practice. The Archives of Internal Medicine found that small gifts, like pens and coffee mugs, given to medical school students can influence the attitude about the drug. Recommendations from the IOM report focus on implementing policies and procedures that reduce the risk of conflicts that can jeopardize integrity, objectivity, quality of patient care, and the public's trust in medicine.

While the New York law potentially adds restrictions, several other states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, already have enacted laws that include banning extremely small gifts, such as coffee mugs.

Fines under the proposed New York law, which will have to pass the legislature, include fines between $15,000 and $250,000 per violation, and docs and other health-care professionals could be fined $5,000 to $10,000.

To learn more:
- here's the NY legislation (the proposed changes are in the Article VII legislation, starting on p. 43)
- read the Institute of Medicine report
- read the Archives of Internal Medicine report
- check out this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post