COUNCILMAN GREENLEE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION BANNING GIFTS FROM PHARMACEUTICAL REPRESENTATIVES TO DOCTORS’ OFFICES IN RESPONSE TO OPIOID CRISIS

In Council News, News, William K. Greenlee by PHL Council

PHILADELPHIA, October 11, 2018 — Councilman Bill Greenlee (At Large), in conjunction with Mayor Kenney’s administration, will introduce legislation this morning to regulate how pharmaceutical manufacturers’ representatives interact with and influence health care providers. This legislation, co-sponsored by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, in response to what the City of Philadelphia is calling “the worst epidemic in a century,” adds a new chapter to the City’s Health Code. Highlights of the bill include requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers and their agents to register with the City’s Health Department, prohibiting gifts to health care providers and their office staff, and prohibiting the distribution of discount coupons for addictive drugs.

According to Councilman Greenlee, “We need to attack the opioid crisis from all angles. While this legislation will not solve the problem, it will be one tool in the arsenal to combat this epidemic.”

More than 1,200 people died in Philadelphia from drug overdoses in 2017. This epidemic, however, started more than two decades ago when pharmaceutical companies began making aggressive and misleading marketing claims about the safety of opioid painkillers to doctors. This led doctors to overprescribe opioids, which in turn started many thousands of Philadelphians on the road to addiction. The City of Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies about their marketing practices. Research has shown that these marketing techniques – especially offering free meals to doctors – influence physicians to prescribe drugs more frequently. And the problem is not just about opioids, as pharmaceutical companies are promoting other dangerous non-opioid medications.

“While we respond to the current addictive drug crisis, we should also prevent the next one,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner.  “Pharmaceutical companies have the right to communicate with doctors and their staff, but they should not be allowed to use gifts like meals to get doctors to hear their sales pitches.”

The bill requires pharmaceutical manufacturers’ representatives to register with the Health Department and display an identification badge whenever they are engaged in sales, marketing, or promotion on behalf of pharmaceutical manufacturers. The sales representatives must also submit all written materials that they are using to promote their drugs to the Health Department for review. This review will enable the Health Department to determine if any further education and training is needed for pharmaceutical agents or health care providers. The bill prohibits the distribution of gifts to health care providers, their offices, their employees, or staff. This includes everything from travel and lodging costs to food, pens and coffee mugs. And it prohibits the distribution of discount coupons that can be used to purchase addictive drugs.

Read the legislation:
Pharma Rep conduct and gifts bill.final

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