Yesterday, Massachusetts Gov. Patrick signed the omnibus health cost containment bill, enacting some of the strongest pharmaceutical marketing restrictions in the country. (Press release here) The law requires drug and medical device companies to disclose payments to health care providers over $50, establishes a prescriber education program, and gives the Department of Public Health power to establish regulations at least as strong as those in the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America voluntary Code, which prohibits small gifts, travel payments, and extravagant restaurant meals to doctors.

S.2863, An Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency and Efficiency in the Delivery of Quality Health Care, also expands state medical school rolls to train more primary care physicians, encourages the use of electronic medical records, and establishes a hearing process for insurance companies that choose to raise premiums.

The governor weathered a heavy week of lobbying from the industry, including a full page ad in the Boston Globe threatening to leave the state if he signed the bill into law. (See our blog here.)

“I have a lot of respect for the governor, and I am proud that he did not bend to the pressure,” state Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny (D-New Bedford) told the Standard-Times. “I have never seen lobbying this intense. They have been swarming the Statehouse for weeks.”

Health Care For All, our coalition cousins in the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition, cheered the signing on A Healthy Blog, reminding us that the bill is a victory not just for better pharmaceutical marketing practices in the state, but because it makes way for better health care for all. 

The passage of important checks on excessive industry marketing “shouldn’t lead us to ignore the many other provisions in the bill, from an e-health program that preserves consumer confidence to significant primary care enhancements to a directive to find a way to fundamentally restructure the payment system to promote health, rather than high-cost treatments. The statute truly is Health Reform II, and will undoubtedly be followed by further refinements in the future.”

Coverage abounds:

Boston Globe

Associated Press

Wall Street Journal Health Blog