Bill seeks to license pharma sales reps

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The District of Columbia could become the first jurisdiction within the country to require the licensing of pharmaceutical sales representatives, pending the outcome of a bill being voted on in the local DC Council.

In December, the Council's representatives voted 7-6 in favor of the bill in its initial test.

That vote advanced the bill, dubbed the “SafeRx Act” to a vote at the council's next meeting in early January.

If passed, the Safe Rx Act bill sponsored by councilmember David Catania's (I-At Large) would require the formation of a pharmacy board to create a code of ethics for pharmaceutical salespeople and to license them.

Under the bill, DC reps would have to be college grads and would be prohibited from using titles that could lead doctors to think they are licensed to practice medicine, pharmacy, nursing or other fields of health.

The bill would also ban pharmaceutical manufacturers from using doctors' prescription data for marketing purposes without the doctors' knowledge.

Passage of the bill could pave the way for other states to pass similar legislation, say people on both sides of the debate.

Ken Johnson, PhRMA spokes-man, told The Washington Post that, “The DC government should not be trying to insert itself into an arena that is already well-covered nationwide by federal agencies. We should avoid the confusion of a patchwork quilt of local laws.”

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

Marjorie Powell, senior assistant general counsel for the association, told The Post that Catania's bill is “a misuse of the District's resources.”

However Catania contends that because their salaries are based on commission, pharma sales reps can mislead doctors and patients into buying the most expensive drugs on the market.

Councilman Marion Barry, a former mayor of Washington DC, is one of the DC councilmembers who opposes the bill. 

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