In July 2012, Gov. Patrick signed a partial repeal of the Massachusetts Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturer Code of Conduct (Code of Conduct). With the partial repeal, the Code of Conduct now allows for meals at non-CME presentations outside a hospital or medical office. The Massachusetts Public Health Council (Council) passed emergency regulations in September 2012, held a public hearing on the emergency regulations in October and on Nov. 21 approved final regulations. The following are key points regarding the final modest meal regulations:
- No Set Dollar Amount. The amount of money that a pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturer may spend is judged by local standards. The amount should be similar to what a healthcare practitioner might purchase when dining at his or her own expense. The Council stated that a specific dollar cap is a simplistic approach to a complex regulatory provision.
- Modest Meals and Refreshments. The meal may also include alcoholic beverages, which consumer advocates argued should be excluded from the definition of “modest meals and refreshments.” The Council stated that “as a practical matter, nearly every venue with function rooms or conference capacity serves alcoholic beverages, and it would be unrealistic to expect either the host staff or the manufacturers to police the contents of participants’ glasses.”
- Location. The modest meal must be provided in a venue and manner conducive to informational communication. This location can include resorts and casinos in addition to restaurants. The Council noted that it is already unlawful to provide meals at entertainment or recreational events and enumerating particular settings would create headaches for conference organizers looking to make use of dual-purpose venues.