New regulations, including a registration fee, covering drug company representatives that were passed by the city of Chicago focus on raising money, not tackling the opioid abuse crisis, industry representatives argue.
Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance last week requiring pharmaceutical representatives to apply for a license, pay $750, fill out forms and take part in five hours a year of professional education.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the ordinance, passed without discussion, is aimed at tackling opioid abuse by preventing "aggressive and deceptive marketing" from pharmaceutical representatives, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
But it is not about opioid abuse: it was a “money grab,” said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, one of a number of organizations and pharmaceutical companies that penned a letter to the council opposing the ordinance.
“If it was about dealing with opioid abuse, the mayor would have sat down with the industry, pharmaceutical companies, and come up with a comprehensive plan,” Denzler said.
He continued by adding that the state has already passed a law to deal with the opioid crisis.
“It was a money grab because the city is facing significant budget problems,” Denzler said.
Chicago is the second city to pass an ordinance regulating pharmaceutical representatives. Washington, D.C., has a similar rule, though the fee is $175.
Denzler fears this could lead to other neighboring municipalities -- or Cook County, of which Chicago is part -- introducing similar regulations and fees.
“It is like death by a thousand cuts,” he said.
Instead, Denzler wants these types of issues to be debated at the state or federal level.
“These representatives may be working across a region,” he said. “What is to stop Cook County or Lake Forest introducing registration, and they end up paying $5,000 from all these money grabs?”
The mayor could have sat down with industry representatives to discuss the opioid crisis, Denzler explained. In reality, however, Emanuel simply “slapped it on in a desperate attempt to raise money.”
“We oppose a lot of onerous regulations and rules that are unnecessary in the pharmaceutical, energy industries,” he said. “This is one of those additional rules.”
Apart from the $750 fee, the ordinance orders pharmaceutical representatives to track, and provide to the city on request, the list of Chicago health care providers they have contacted.
Additionally, representatives must reveal the number of times they contacted health care providers, the drugs promoted and whether they provided any samples, materials or gifts and the value of those items, according to the Tribune report.
The representatives must also report whether health care professionals were compensated for their time with the pharmaceutical reps, who also must now take part in at least five hours a year of professional education covering ethics, pharmacology or laws and regulations surrounding pharmaceutical marketing. They are barred from engaging in deceptive or misleading marketing.
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association joined 16 pharmaceutical companies, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago and the Kidney Cancer Association in opposing the ordinance.
“These proposed reporting requirements are unnecessary and duplicative, creating an unnecessary tax on one of the most important sectors of our economy,” they said in the letter.