April 29, 2009 | last updated May 26, 2012 6:54 am

CT's proposed physician gift ban backed

As Connecticut considers enacting stricter measures on gifts from drug and medical device companies to health care providers to curb unfair influence on physicians, the government's top medical advisers are voicing their support for similar nationwide regulations.

The Institute of Medicine, in a report this week, said free lunches from company salespeople, paid lectures and reimbursement for travel and consulting fees from the pharmaceutical industry should be banned. These practices "erode public trust while providing no meaningful benefits to patient or society," institute panel chair Bernard Lo said in a statement.

In Connecticut, lawmakers are weighing new restrictions that would ban industry representatives from buying meals for doctors and require them to report to the Department of Public Health any payments to doctors worth more than $1,000. The region's pharmaceutical and biotech industries have been critical of the proposed regulations, contending they would stifle the growth of new medications while doing little to detract undue influence of doctors' decision.

The proposed Connecticut regulations mirror those enacted in Massachusetts last year, where gifts of more than $50 to any doctor must now be reported. Vermont is also weighing similar measures.

In effort to avoid state laws such as these, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group last year tried to rein in marketing efforts by asking members to stop handing out logo-bearing freebies.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is a strong proponent of Connecticut's stricter measures. The trade groups' self-regulations fall short of what is needed to monitor billion-dollar marketing efforts, he said.

"They're not enforceable," he told the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month.

In Massachusetts, the stricter codes have prompted several major medical conferences to relocate planned conventions in the Bay State.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reader response:

"Has anybody read the PhRMA guidelines? This law goes too far and will cost not only pharma jobs in the state, but put catering companies out of business. Enact the PhRMA guidelines and the 1 or 2 rogue companies that don't adhere to the guidelines will be forced. Currently only VT and Minnesota have a food ban. Are they saving any drug costs?'' -- J. Caggiano

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