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EDITORIAL: Flawed Rule Assumes Doctors Can't Be Trusted

EDITORIAL: Flawed Rule Assumes Doctors Can't Be trusted [The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.]

From Salem News (MA) (October 7, 2010)

Oct. 07--It was good to hear the three major candidates for governor express a desire to modify the ban on gifts to doctors by pharmaceutical companies.

Incumbent Deval Patrick, along with challengers Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill, all expressed skepticism this week with the ban approved by the Legislature in 2008. What the law says essentially is that our doctors can’t be trusted to prescribe the right drugs for us if they’re allowed to accept meals and other gifts from the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s not as if members of the Great and General Court have set the standard for incorruptibility. Or perhaps it’s just that they’re so susceptible to the pleadings of special interests, they assume everybody else is as well.

In any case, the law is not a good one.

According to a recent State House News Service story, "Critics of the ban say it prohibits pharmaceutical companies from delivering critical educational information to doctors." It has also cost Boston hotels and restaurants a fair amount of business as the ban has caused industry groups to shy away from the city when planning conferences and conventions.

Things may change, however. According to the State House News Service’s account of a gubernatorial forum hosted by a biotechnology trade group Monday, "whoever the next governor is, a ban on gifts to doctors by pharmaceutical companies will be in the crosshairs next term."

"I will work to repeal it," Cahill promised those in attendance, adding that it was an insult to the profession to assume doctors might compromise their patient’s health "because they grabbed a pen or someone’s giving them a meal."

Baker and Patrick expressed similar reservations, and the incumbent added he would also support a measure ending the ban on companies offering patients coupons to offset the cost of prescription drugs -- a view that was echoed by Baker and Cahill.

It’s good to see all three candidates in agreement on this one. You might want to ask those running for legislative office in your community how they stand on the issue.

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Posted: October 2010

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