Mass Health-Code Bill: Industry Argues “Chilling” Effect on Clinical Research
Among the compromises reached by the Massachusetts legislature last week in its health-code bill is the stipulation that drug companies will report any physician gifts exceeding $50 to the state’s Department of Public Health. The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Deval Patrick, but 5 trade groups* are attempting to persuade the governor not to sign by way of a full-page ad in The Boston Globe.
In addition, PhRMA senior vice president Ken Johnson wrote yesterday in a press release that the public disclosure of gifts “could chill ongoing clinical research in the commonwealth.” Johnson proposes, “Physicians and other healthcare providers who do not want such personal information disclosed may decide to no longer work with the pharmaceutical research companies sponsoring the clinical studies.” He adds, “Public disclosure of a pharmaceutical company’s arrangements with the principal investigators of its clinical trials also would reveal sensitive, proprietary business information to a company’s competitors. This could erode the independent decision-making of companies trying to bring science from research facilities to patient care settings.”
However, it seems unlikely that Massachusetts physicians would forego pharma research grants for clinical study given 1) the nature of this particular “gift” and 2) the fact that grant information is already publicly available through the NIH database at clinicaltrials.gov (although the size of the grant, to my knowledge, is not provided).
As far as public disclosure revealing “sensitive, proprietary business information,” PhRMA’s Julie Corcoran tells Pharmalot that, according to the bill, companies “shall disclose…the value, nature, purpose, and particular recipient of any fee, payment, subsidy or other economic benefit”—which, she argues, is subject to overly broad interpretation. But again, in the case of clinical grants, the nature, purpose, and recipient of the funds are already available through the NIH registry.
* Biotechnology Industry Organization, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts High Technology Council, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and PhRMA.
8/11 update: The Boston Globe reports that Governor Patrick signed the bill yesterday.