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Source:  Policy and Medicine

Earlier this year, Minnesota quietly updated its gift ban statute to include certain pharmacists. According to the new statute, pharmacists are considered practitioners if they prescribe self-administered hormonal contraceptives, nicotine replacement medications, or opiate antagonists.

A gift is defined as “any money, real or personal property, a service, a loan, a forbearance or forgiveness of indebtedness, or a promise of future employment, that is given and received without the giver receiving consideration of equal or greater value in return.” Practitioners under the statute can receive gifts from wholesalers and manufacturers up to a combined annual limit of $50 in retail value, meaning the total retail value of gifts given to a practitioner cannot exceed $50 per year.

As one might expect, modest meals are considered a gift under the above definition and would count toward the annual $50 limit on all gifts. However, a meal is not considered a gift to the pharmacist if the pharmacist is serving on the faculty at a professional or educational conference or meeting or if the pharmacist is providing to the manufacturer “substantial professional and consulting services” as part of a genuine research project.

Additionally, the Minnesota law prohibits cash payments to pharmacists for their participation in “surveys” that are intended by pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote, market, or sell a drug directly to the pharmacist. Under the statute, these “surveys” would be considered commercial marketing activities, not bona fide market research conducted by independent survey research organizations. Therefore, participation in those surveys would not be a “substantial service,” nor would it involve a “genuine research project” as intended by the legislature.

Cash payments are also considered inappropriate for pharmacists who merely attend educational conferences and programs, though those who are on the faculty may be paid a reasonable amount for their services.

Interestingly, textbooks are considered gifts under Minnesota law as they likely do not fall under the “publications and educational” materials exception as intended by the legislature. In addition to textbooks, subscriptions to online services that provide general medical and drug information and other general references are considered gifts and subject to the $50 aggregate annual limit.

Payments Made by Manufacturers that Are Not Considered Gifts

There are some items and types of payments that are not considered gifts in Minnesota, including professional samples of a drug provided to a prescriber for free distribution to patients; items with a total combined retail value of less than $50 (in any calendar year); a payment to the sponsor of a medical conference, professional meeting, or other educational program, as long as the payment is not made directly to a pharmacist and is used solely for bona fide educational purposes; publications and educational materials (not textbooks, as noted above); and salaries or other benefits paid to employees.

Additionally, reasonable honoraria and payment of the reasonable expenses of a pharmacist who serves on the faculty at a professional or educational conference or meeting and compensation for the substantial professional or consulting services in connection with a genuine research project are not considered gifts but the manufacturer must file an annual report with the Board of Pharmacy regarding those payments if such payments exceed $100 annually.