On September 19, 2012, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved emergency amendments to the State’s Marketing Code of Conduct regulations, 105 CMR 970.000, which restrict certain gifts and payments by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to Massachusetts health care practitioners (“HCPs”) and require disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The regulations, effective as of September 19, 2012, follow amendments to the underlying statute, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111N, signed into law in July by Governor Deval Patrick as part of the FY2013 State Budget. The July statutory amendments are further discussed here in our earlier Client Alert.

The emergency regulatory amendments include many expected changes as a result of the July statutory amendments, including now allowing manufacturers to provide modest meals and refreshments to HCPs at non-CME educational presentations, as long as manufacturers file quarterly reports detailing such meals. However, the emergency amendments also provide that a manufacturer shall be deemed to have met such reporting requirements if the company makes all disclosures required under federal law (for example, the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act), and such disclosures are then reported by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”).

In addition, and importantly, the emergency regulations include new language eliminating the requirement that manufacturers report specific information regarding payments in connection with sales and marketing activities after such reports are made for calendar year 2012. Therefore, although the July 2012 statutory amendments prohibit duplicative reporting to Massachusetts if manufacturers have already reported the same information pursuant to federal law and DPH can obtain the information, the emergency regulatory amendments go even further by eliminating the Massachusetts reporting requirement altogether.

Notably, emergency regulations remain in effect for only three months unless they are formally promulgated according to the Massachusetts Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, further regulatory action will be necessary to eliminate fully the reporting requirement in 2013 and going forward.

On October 19, 2012, DPH held a public hearing and solicited public testimony regarding the emergency regulations. While some industry stakeholders supported the current definition of “modest meals,” which focuses on “local standards,” others requested that DPH define “modest” with a clear monetary limit and specifically ban alcohol at industry-funded events and presentations. Additionally, stakeholders disagreed regarding whether quarterly reports related to modest meals and refreshments at non-CME educational presentations should be required, given that similar reporting obligations under federal law. Regardless of whether the reporting requirement is permanently eliminated, however, Massachusetts’ broad restrictions remain with respect to gifts and other benefits provided by manufacturers to HCPs.

As we await DPH’s final determination regarding the emergency regulatory amendments, Massachusetts’ potential elimination of the reporting requirement may portend what can be expected from other states as we near release of the final rule for the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act.

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires applicable manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, or medical supplies covered under Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP to report annually to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services certain payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. Once implemented, the federal Act will preempt any state law that requires a manufacturer to disclose the same type of information required to be reported under the federal law. However, the federal Act does not preempt any state laws that require the disclosure or reporting of information that falls outside of the scope of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. For example, while the federal law only applies to payments and transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, the Massachusetts reporting requirements cover a broader group of HCPs, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants. As such, but for the recent emergency regulatory amendments, certain Massachusetts reporting requirements would still apply, notwithstanding federal preemption.