New stimulus plan: Let drug reps run wild

Two years ago, Massachusetts banned pharmaceutical gifts to doctors. The restaurant industry is crying foul


Andrew Leonard
July 1, 2010 1:31AM (UTC)

Massachusetts Democrats may have finally stumbled on the perfect plan to stimulate the economy: Make bribery legal!

BNET Pharma blogger Jim Edwards brings us the story. Two years ago, Massachusetts enacted a landmark pharmaceutical and medical device gift ban. No longer would sweet-talking drug reps be able to wine and dine doctors. It's a familiar story: a martini and some pan-seared salmon for lunch, and the next thing you know you've bought yourself a case of brand new implantable defibrillators that you didn't even know you needed.

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Call me squeamish, but my stomach gets upset when I think about all the drugs and devices prescribed as a result of drug rep seduction. Where in the Hippocratic Oath does it read that doctors are entitled to free lunches?

Ah, but the best of intentions so often go astray. Massachusetts restaurants are screaming, claiming the gift ban has hurt their business.

From the Boston Business Journal:

Committee on Economic Development chairman, Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverill, said, "Over the past year and a half, we've been hearing from device and biotech companies, the convention center and the restaurant industry, that this is causing additional problems during the worst recession in memory."

Edwards reports that there is an entire industry devoted to facilitating drug rep lunches, so I'm inclined to believe there might be some negative economic fallout for restaurants from a gift ban. And as my readers know, I am a strong advocate of counter-cyclical spending during a recession. Tough times require innovative solutions! Why stop at gift bans? Why not legalize outright payoffs from drug companies to doctors? The more money we get circulating, the better off everyone will be.

So never mind a few unnecessary drug prescriptions or ridiculously expensive medical gear. Such trifles are a small price to pay for rebooting economic growth. Now, what else can we legalize to get the economy going again? Extortion? Blackmail?

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Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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