Massachusetts Medical Society: Overview of Massachusetts Physician Gift Ban Law

Overview of Massachusetts Physician Gift Ban Law

Since July 2009, pharmaceutical or medical device companies engaged in sales and marketing activities in Massachusetts have been required to disclose the value, nature, purpose, and particular recipient of any fee, payment, subsidy, or other economic benefit with a value of at least $50 provided to any covered recipient in connection with sales and marketing activities.

Covered recipient means any person authorized to prescribe, dispense, or purchase prescription drugs, biologics, or medical devices. Sales and marketing activities are defined as those intended to be used as follows:

  • To influence the sale or the market share of a prescription drug, biologic, or medical device or the prescribing behavior of a covered recipient
  • To market a drug or device
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical or medical device detailing sales force and any product education, training, or research project that is designed or sponsored by the marketing division of a pharmaceutical or medical device company or has marketing, product promotion, or advertising as its purpose

Activities exempt from disclosure include:

  • Reasonable compensation for bona fide services and out of pocket costs for genuine research and participation in clinical trials
  • The provision of prescription drugs for use by patients
  • The provision of demonstration or evaluation units, in-kind items used for the provision of charity care, and
  • Confidential price concessions such as rebates and discounts

Provision of Meals

The original law strictly prohibited pharmaceutical and medical device companies from providing any meals of any value to health care practitioners outside a hospital or the practitioner’s office.

This section was amended in 2012. Such companies may now provide meals and refreshments outside the office or hospital in a non-CME setting, as long as they are of modest value, while providing education and information about the benefits, risks and appropriate uses of prescription drugs, devices, diseases or other scientific information, in a setting conducive to informational communication.

The regulations define “modest value” in the context of local standards, in amounts similar to what a health care practitioner might purchase when dining at his or her own expense. The regulations do not state any specific dollar amount or any range of value.

Still prohibited:

  • Meals and refreshments provided as part of entertainment or a recreational event
  • Meals and refreshments provided without an informational presentation
  • Meals and refreshments provided to a health care practitioner’s spouse or guest

Other Payments Prohibited

  • Entertainment or recreational items of any value, such as tickets to a sporting event or concert, or vacation trips
  • Payments of any kind, except as compensation for bona fide services
  • Grants, scholarships, subsidies or other items, in exchange for prescribing or disbursing prescription drugs, biologics or medical devices
  • Any remuneration, including any rebate or “kickback,” that is prohibited under state or federal fraud and abuse laws


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