A couple of days ago I wrote a story suggesting that there might be loopholes in the new voluntary ban on drug companies giving doctors lavish meals at fancy steak houses in the hope that those docs will increase their prescriptions for the companies’ drugs.
I noted that the rules said:
“A CME provider at its own discretion may apply the financial support provided by a company for a CME event to provide meals for all participants.”
That, I suggested, would be “a gap in the system that companies will be tempted to test.”
It turns out there’s an even wider loophole elsewhere in the rules. Eli Lilly posted a press release on the same day as the new rules were published that gave this interpretation of the restaurant meals ban:
“Allows outside meals only in conjunction with speaker or peer selling programs.”
Er … isn’t that pretty much exactly the kind of meal that the rules are supposed to ban?
So I looked more closely at the new rules. Meals are banned unless they are:
2. offered “in-office or “in-hospital.”
3. Not “entertainment.”
4. offered by a CME provider and not directly funded by a drug company.
Pretty comprehensive, huh? But then, buried in the section on “consultants,” the rules say:
“Modest meals or receptions may be appropriate during company sponsored meetings with healthcare professional commercial consultants.”
So Lilly has it right. Meals are banned, unless you have a consultant along.
Which kind of defeats the purpose of a ban on meals, doesn’t it?