Democratic Council members divided on bill aimed at Big Pharma's role in opioid epidemic

Pat Loeb
December 08, 2018 - 4:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An unusual vote in this week's City Council session surrounding a bill aimed at Big Pharma's role in the opioid crisis revealed a rift among the normally unified Democrats on council. 

The bill would require drug sales reps to register with the city, wear ID when making calls, and not give gifts or samples to doctors. The bill aims to reduce the over-prescription of painkillers, which health authorities connect to an increase in opioid addiction. 

Drug companies oppose it, but a council committee approved it and, as with nearly every bill, it advised a suspension of the rules. That move allows bills to be voted on one week sooner than the rules allow, if council approves — which it does, always until Thursday.

The no vote from Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown was so unexpected it caused momentary confusion, then irritation, as two other council members joined in.

"I never remember anybody voting not to move the bill to second reading before," said Councilman Bill Greenlee. "I've been here a long time and I've never seen that, so somebody's got to explain that to me."

Reynolds Brown's explanation was a little vague.

"I have a number of, not questions — well, questions and concerns regarding the bill," she said, "and I'm prepared to speak in greater detail next week."

More puzzling, Reynolds Brown had approved the bill and the rules suspension request in committee. 

The bill will be voted on next week as most council members voted to suspend the rules. Lobbying by drug firms is expected to be intense.