The bill that would make Washington, DC, the first jurisdiction in the nation to license pharmaceutical sales reps overcame its first hurdle with a 7-6 vote on Tuesday.

The vote advances the bill to the Council’s next meeting to be held on Jan. 8

If passed, the bill dubbed the “Safe Rx Act” would require pharma sales reps to be licensed by the Washington, DC, Board of Pharmacy.

Additionally the bill would require reps to possess a bachelor’s degree, adhere to a code of ethics, abstain from giving gifts to doctors and hold off on using prescribing data as a marketing tool unless authorized by a physician to do so.
Councilman David Catania, an Independent, is Safe Rx’s lead sponsor and chairman of the DC Council’s health committee.

Catania contends that pharmaceutical sales reps need more supervision than the FDA is currently able to provide.

“There are no consequences of false and misleading advertising” Catania said in a published report. “We can say, ‘While the federal government will do nothing, we will take away your license.’”

Ken Johnson, SVP of PhRMA, said in a statement:”We regret that the council voted in favor of legislation that creates unnecessary financial burdens for the District of Columbia at a time when the money would be better spent addressing a wide array of healthcare challenges confronting the city including HIV/AIDS, diabetes and heart disease,” the statement said. “The bill passed by the council puts the city into a regulatory arena that has been effectively addressed by federal laws and federal government agencies for years.”

Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 sales representatives work in the DC region and cast a wide net outside the area, according to PhRMA.

Councilman Marion Barry, an Democrat and former mayor of Washington, DC, was one of the six councilmembers who voted against the bill.

Barry told The Washington Business Journal the bill, if passed, would be difficult to enforce.

“It’s a waste of time to try to do this…It does nothing to protect patients or enhance their quality of life,” Barry said.