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Mass. rule would allow drug sharing in crisis

Associated Press Modified: November 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012

Critics who pushed to relax the gift ban said the pharmaceutical and medical device industries should have the freedom to market products in Massachusetts. Restaurant owners also objected to the law, saying it hurt their businesses.

The Legislature approved a measure in June ordering state health regulators to ease the restrictions. In doing so on Wednesday, the council voted to allow modestly-priced restaurant meals but declined to give a specific dollar limit. The rule only states that a meal shouldn't cost more than what a doctor might otherwise pay if dining at his or her own expense.

Groups worried about rising health care costs expressed disappointment that the council did not provide a specific definition of a modest meal.

"Without a defined standard, the department will have almost no ability to enforce meaningful oversight and compliance," Michael Murray, interim state director of AARP Massachusetts, said in a statement. The group has more than 800,000 members age 50 or older in the state.

Drug makers and medical device makers would still be required to report all gifts, including meals, to the state.