Chicago Ordinance to Require Pharma Sales Reps to be Licensed "May Be Helpful, But Has Limitations" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In hopes of reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing, the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, November 16, 2016, passed an ordinance that requires all pharmaceutical sales reps to become licensed.


The ordinance, which the pharmaceutical industry opposed, will require sales reps to undergo training for ethics, marketing regulations, and applicable laws. Reps will also have to file reports with the city that disclose the names of doctors they visit as part of their work, the number of visits, and any samples, materials, or gifts provided, along with their value. Reps will also have to pay a $750 licensing fee and renew the licenses annually.


“Opioid addiction is a public health issue impacting cities like ours across the country,” said Dr. Julie Morita, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, in a statement when the ordinance was unveiled last month. “Law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem.”


Th city said it paid for some prescriptions unnecessarily and has previously noted that its health insurance plan has reimbursed claims for approximately $12.3 million for opioids between 2008 and 2015. The city sued Purdue Pharma, Endo International, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Actavis (which is now Allergan), and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit. Pfizer reached a deal to avoid the lawsuit.


The city expects to collect more than $1 million in licensing revenue and will use that to support ongoing efforts to educate doctors and the public about opioids, and cover the cost of regulation, according to a spokeswoman for the Office of Budget and Management.


Chicago officials also hope to use the funds to boost existing investments in drug treatment, expand opioid and heroin addiction treatment, and provide seed funding to existing health clinics to expand and create new opioid treatment programs, she added.


Once the ordinance goes into effect next July, Chicago will become only the second government in the country to take such a move in order to license sales reps in hopes of clamping down on inappropriate marketing and prescribing. In 2008, Washington, D.C., began requiring sales reps to become licensed. A license costs $175.


One expert suggested the ordinance may be helpful, but may also have some limitations.


“If they collect all that information [about sales reps visits & physician prescribing habits], the city could use that as leverage on the pharmaceutical companies,” said John Mack, who publishes Pharma Marketing News. “The data they’re collecting could make a better case for the argument that doctors overprescribe these medications.”


However, he also noted that sales reps are following marching orders and, despite any required education or training, will remain under pressure to market certain medicines at certain times.


“I think will be hard to prove its an effective way to control the prescribing, so I don’t think it’s really going to solve the problem directly. It might help indirectly if the city can say that overprescribing is caused by aggressive sales tactics,” he continued. “I’m not sure how they can manipulate the data to prove anything. But they may be able to squeeze something out of the data. They’re asking for a lot.”