New tactic in battle against opioid addiction starts with pharma sales reps

Bill Greenlee says he hopes his bill will help reduce prescriptions.

Pat Loeb
October 11, 2018 - 9:37 am
Philadelphia City councilman Bill Greenlee

KYW Newsradio, file

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In the continuing effort to combat the opioid epidemic, Philadelphia City Council will get legislation, Thursday, that would put strict new controls on pharmaceutical sales representatives. 

Councilman Bill Greenlee plans to introduce a bill that would require anyone selling or marketing prescription drugs to health care providers to register with the city, wear identification clearly stating their affiliation, and give the city copies of all the written materials they'll be using. Most importantly, he says, it would prohibit them from giving the providers gifts, including drinks and meals, and from giving patients discount coupons for addictive drugs.

"There shouldn't be these incentives given to doctors to do certain prescriptions and give out certain medications," Greenlee said.

The bill notes that there's evidence that gifts from drug company sales reps influence doctors' prescribing behavior and that opioid prescriptions more than doubled from 2001 to 2011, a precursor to the current addiction epidemic that's caused more than 1,600 overdose deaths in the last two years. 

"I would think doctors would not want to be looked at like they're giving out drugs because of what they get," he said.

Greenlee says he hopes his bill will make headway in reducing prescriptions.

"Anything that we can do to try to cut down on the addiction problem is to the benefit of all the citizens of the city," he said.

Chicago and Washington, D.C., have similar regulations, and Maine and Minnesota have also banned gifts, as have Philadelphia's three largest hospitals, Temple, Jefferson and Penn, so Greenlee expects it to pass.

"It should be a no-brainer."

The bill would still allow speaking and consulting fees and free samples.