Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray are taking a road trip to San Diego next month for a major biotechnology conference. The way things are shaping up, they could end up as the proverbial skunks at a lawn party.
The three leaders are hoping to use the state’s $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative, a bill they expect will be law by that point, to lure biotech investment to Massachusetts. Yet the industry is rebelling against them because of a provision in a separate health care cost-control bill being pushed by the Senate president.
The provision would ban gifts of any kind from pharmaceutical manufacturers to doctors, their family members or their employees — even those pens with the brand names of drugs on them.
To hear the industry tell it, the free world would lose access to the Band-Aid if that were to happen.
“Strictly interpreted, the ‘anything-of-value’ ban could bring clinical trials to a halt in Massachusetts, severely cut into necessary and mandated continuing educational studies undertaken by physicians and mean that fewer new medicines are readily available to patients in the state that is the global hub of medical innovation,” the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council wrote in a May 1 letter to state legislators.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) wrote DiMasi on April 30 that “the gift-ban provision threatens research and treatment for patients in the Commonwealth.”
And GlaxoSmithKline wrote the three leaders a letter accusing the Massachusetts political establishment of harboring “a strong anti-biopharmaceutical streak.”
Murray declined comment on the letters. But two lawmakers who helped push the bill through the Senate this month were not restrained in their responses.
Each said the gifts were a form of bribery driving up health care costs by overusing pricey medicines.
State Sen. Mark Montigny, who authored the gift-ban provision, said the legislation would not harm medical research, and the Life Sciences Initiative itself is proof the state is not opposed to the biopharmaceutical industry. The bill also expressly allows for doctors to continue receiving free drug samples from the manufacturers.