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Biotech biz views Mass. leaders as friends, foes

Glen Johnson

“They are very loose with the truth,” said Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat. “They’re smart enough to read the law, but not smart enough to keep from misrepresenting it.”

State Sen. Richard Moore, the Uxbridge Democrat who chairs the Legislature’s Health Care Financing Committee, said the bill was aimed at preventing pharmaceutical companies from currying favor for their products with such techniques as providing free lunches for a doctor and his staff, flying them to resorts for work conferences or slapping their name on pro-drug medical journal articles they haven’t even written.

“There are plenty of academic studies that have been written that have concluded that this does influence prescribing inappropriately,” Moore said.

He added: “They’re obviously trying to sell drugs, and to sell them at the highest cost.”

The conflict comes as Patrick, DiMasi and Murray try to sell Massachusetts as a life sciences hub.

Their pitch?

The state has world-renowned colleges, equally admired hospitals and a biotech cluster along the Charles River, Route 128 and at the former Fort Devens. The Life Sciences bill would add $1 billion over 10 years to research and development efforts.

Patrick is hoping to sign the bill into law by June 17, when he, the House speaker and the Senate president travel to San Diego for the biotech conference hosted by BIO — the Washington-based industry trade group lobbying against the gift ban.

Patrick and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are slated to participate in a discussion, entitled “Biotechnology: The Role of Government in Facilitating Research and Discovery in 2009 and Beyond.”

The conference is expected to draw 20,000 people and 2,200 companies from 70 countries. Last year, the conference was held in Boston and Patrick used the occasion to announce his Life Sciences bill.

This year, he hopes turning talk into action will help him lure companies “home.”

While his robust words and deeds have triggered talk about naming Patrick “Governor of the Year” at this year’s conference, that honor is now in doubt based on the gift ban.

A Patrick spokesman said the governor has yet to take a stand on the provision, despite his support for the overall bill.

BIO members are hoping he will end up opposing it.

“For the Life Sciences Initiative to achieve its full promise, every link in the value chain must remain unencumbered, thereby allowing the flow of important medical information to doctors and patients,” the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council told lawmakers.

Glen Johnson has covered local, state and national politics since 1985.

(Associated Press)