Massachusetts Medical Society Physicians Adopt New Resolutions at Interim Meeting

Policies on marijuana, drug-price transparency, and off-label drug use are among those adopted by MMS delegates at their 2015 interim meeting  

Waltham, Mass. – Dec. 5, 2015 – Resolutions on recreational marijuana, medical marijuana use in women of reproductive age, drug price transparency by pharmaceutical companies, and interoperability and vendor accountability with electronic medical records were among those adopted as new policies by the members of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s House of Delegates at its Interim Meeting held Saturday, December 5.

The Interim Meeting brings together hundreds of Massachusetts physicians from across the state to consider specific resolutions on public health policy, health care delivery, and organizational administration by the Society’s House of Delegates, its policy-making body. Resolutions adopted by the delegates become policies of the organization.

Among the policies adopted by the organization on Saturday:

Recreational use of marijuana: Physicians voted to continue to oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, a policy first established in 1997, and to advocate and educate regarding the adverse public health effects of recreational marijuana use. The resolution also stated that the Society urge that any proposed legislation supporting such use of marijuana specifically prohibit individuals under the age of 21 from possessing or using marijuana or marijuana-infused products. Additionally, the delegates urged that any legislation supporting recreational marijuana include dedicated revenues for public education and for the prevention and treatment of health consequences to the public, such as substance abuse and addiction, which may be aggravated by the use of recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana use in women of reproductive age: The Medical Society adopted a position similar to one approved by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in July  that states that women of reproductive age who report marijuana use should be counseled about the potential adverse health consequences of its use and should be encouraged to avoid using the drug. The policy adds that insufficient data exists to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, so marijuana use should be discouraged. The policy also encourages physicians certifying patients who receive marijuana for medical use be advised of the risks of marijuana on reproduction, pregnancy, the fetus, and breastfeeding.

Drug pricing transparency: Physicians resolved to work with the American Medical Association in advocating that federal regulatory agencies, working under existing legislation, assure the availability of pharmaceuticals at fair and reasonable prices to consumers. The policy on pricing also includes urging the Federal Trade Commission to limit anti-competitive behavior by drug companies through manipulation of patent protections and abuse of exclusivity incentives; advocating for prescription drug price transparency from drug companies, pharmacy benefit managers, and health insurers; and urging the Massachusetts State Legislature and Attorney General to call attention to rising drug prices and initiate patient protections against excessive drug pricing. The resolution also reaffirmed existing Medical Society policy that the Society will work toward eliminating the Medicare prohibition on drug price negotiation.

Electronic health records: Delegates approved a resolution to submit a report to the state’s Congressional delegation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that documents shortcomings in electronic health records attributable to vendors and their lack of interoperability. The policy also includes a statement that there should be no end-user penalties associated with meaningful use, a request that vendors expeditiously provide an interoperable electronic health records, and that vendors that do not provide or allow for full interoperability with their product receive significant financial penalties.

Off-label drug promotion: Physicians approved a resolution supporting the dissemination of generally available information from manufacturers about off-label uses of pharmaceuticals by physicians, provided the information is independently derived, peer-reviewed, scientifically sound, and truthful. Such information should also be accompanied by the approved product labeling and disclosures about the lack of FDA approval for such uses, as well as disclosures of sources of financial support or financial conflicts.

Physicians also approved new policies on delayed school start times for middle and high school students, protecting patients by immunizing physicians, and support for child safety laws regarding detergent poisoning.

School start times: Delegates approved a policy stating that a school start time no earlier than 8:30 a.m. would be a beneficial change to the overall health and well-being of middle and high school adolescents. The policy encourages advocacy on the state legislative level, as well as with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, in support of a later start time.

Detergent poisoning of children: Physicians adopted a policy to urge federal and state authorities and the American Medical Association to support laws that would protect children from poisoning by detergent packet products. The policy urges that such products meet child-resistant packaging requirements, that they include warning labels, and that they be designed less attractively to children. A “Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act” is now pending in Congress. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 11,700 children younger than 5 years old were exposed to these products in 2014,  

Immunization of Physicians: Delegates adopted a resolution stating that physicians and health care workers who have direct patient care responsibilities or potential direct exposure, when a highly transmissible disease exists that poses significant medical risk for patients or colleagues, especially a disease that has the potential become epidemic or pandemic, have an ethical obligation to accept immunization unless there is a recognized medical reason not to be immunized.

Other policies adopted by the delegates applied to the organization’s bylaws and administrative procedures, including updates to social media policies, recognition awards, and special committees.

The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 25,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and NEJM Journal Watch alerts and publications covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.

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