Pharmaceutical gift ban is a protection that must be preserved

I was disappointed to read the remarks by a spokeswoman for Governor Patrick in support of lifting the pharmaceutical gift ban law in Glen Johnson’s Political Intelligence column on June 10. In the four years since the gift ban was enacted, patients have been protected from unethical marketing activities — activities that add unnecessary expense to each pill and lead to harmful patient outcomes when patients receive medication they may not need and experience serious side effects.

By banning pharmaceutical companies from treating doctors to lavish meals and extravagant conferences and requiring industry payments to be reported, the gift ban and disclosure law help ensure that physicians receive balanced and unbiased information on medications, new and old. As a result, patients are protected from drugs whose potential harms and side effects are not well understood, and physician prescribing is not skewed toward the latest and most expensive prescription drugs when generics or other equally efficacious drugs are available.

Massachusetts has been a pioneer in curbing the drug industry’s influence on physicians and preventing industry from dictating what is best for our health. We should all oppose any attempts to repeal this law, and should preserve our ability to access health care free from conflicts of interest.

Dr. Gordon Schiff

Jamaica Plain

The writer is associate director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His views here are his own.