In early October, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a “series of efforts to combat heroin and opioid addiction throughout Chicago.” According to a press release on the City of Chicago’s website, “these proposed efforts would increase the City’s annual investment in addiction treatment by 50 percent…and create improved regulation of pharmaceutical representatives.”
Chicago seems to place much of the blame on pharmaceutical representatives marketing to medical professionals. As such, Mayor Emanuel proposes to “establish a pharmaceutical representative license above the current Limited Business Licensing required for these individuals in Chicago.”
Chicago seems to be following in the footsteps of Washington, DC, noting that “pharmaceutical representatives will be required to receive additional training and education and provide the city with information on opioid sales and marketing.” Through this extra licensing, the city would enable medical professionals to report complaints against pharmaceutical representatives for deceptive and/or unethical behavior and monitor, audit, and adjudicate such complaints. Part of the additional training would focus on prescription abuse, ethics, and marketing practices from programs certified by the city.
Sometime this month, the city expects to introduce an ordinance that would require the extra licensing. The city is also considering requiring pharmaceutical representatives to track which doctors they contact, and potentially supply names to the city upon request. The ordinance would also require licensed representatives to record the number of health providers they contact and the drug information they offer, keep track of when and to whom they hand out samples, and note whether the physicians are compensated for their time.
According to Dr. Julie Morita, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, the city is working on how it would enforce the ordinance and punish violators, though pulling a representative’s license might be one such possibility.
The licenses would cost roughly $750 per representative, annually (compared to the $175 fee in Washington, DC). The estimated $1 million in license fees would support the licensing program as well as help support treatment for addiction. When asked if the ordinance was just another way for the city to make money and add to their revenue rolls, Dr. Morita stated it was about protecting the health and well-being of Chicagoans.
The city of Chicago has long been known to aggressively challenge marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry, most notably by filing a lawsuit against several opioid manufacturers. In addition to the additional licensing requirement, Emanuel plans to expand investments to treat heroin and opioid addictions, including $700,000 in new funding that will be focused on opioid treatment deserts where there is a disproportionate level of addiction and the need is greater than the availability of services.
Chicago will also invest $250,000 in naloxone, going to the Chicago Recovery Alliance, to increase access to the overdose antidote in the communities that have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic.
Focusing on education and awareness of addiction prevention and treatment, Chicago has secured $350,000 for education campaign (including a $300,000 grant from Pfizer and two $25,000 grants from CVS and Walgreens). The education campaign will include outreach to community and to the healthcare providers who prescribe opioids, helping them to understand the dangers of opioid addiction and apply recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent overprescribing.
These efforts follow a July agreement between Pfizer and Chicago, where both parties agreed to a painkiller marketing code, which we highlighted in the October issue of Life Science Compliance Update.
The Chicago Tribune reached out to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, asking for comment. PhRMA had not yet been able to review the details and substance of Chicago’s proposal, noting instead, “Industry interactions with health care professionals, however, are extensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Patchwork local and state initiatives are likely to disrupt the existing federal regulation of important scientific information that benefits both providers and patients.”