by By Jennifer Nicole Dienst | March 01, 2009

BostonA new Massachu­setts law that will go into effect in July, limiting the involvement of drug companies and device manufacturers at medical meetings, as well as eliminating giveaways on the trade show floor, already is taking a toll on Boston's medical meetings business.

To date, at least one group, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, slated for a 2015 meeting in the city, has canceled, while the American Society of Gene Therapy announced it has taken Boston off its short list, and the Heart Rhythm Society declared it is seriously in doubt of placing a meeting in the city due to the new law.

AAAAI's cancellation will cost Boston 15,830 room nights and 8,000 attendees, but the stakes are far higher. According to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, health care-related meetings held over the next 10 years could generate an estimated 1.8 million room nights, $426 million in hotel revenue and $52 million in hotel taxes for the city.

The new law, which follows guidelines set by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Edu­cation, forbids presentations at medical meetings by drug company scientists and doctors, and includes mandatory disclosures by drug and device companies of any payments or gifts worth more than $50. Planners are concerned that these and other restrictions are a threat to vital sponsorships.

"There's all this cloudiness about what is and isn't within the bounds of acceptability," says Patrick Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the GBCVB, who has put in a request to the state's department of public health to conduct a study on the effects of the law and, in the meantime, exempt medical meetings held at convention centers and area hotels to allow sponsorship support. The controversial law is expected to be finalized this month.