Drug Reps Need Licenses - DC Council Passes SafeRx

In a neck-and-neck vote, the DC Council approved legislation to license drug reps (aka detailers).

This is just the first sortie however - a final vote is slated for January 8th.

In The Washington Post:

"The D.C. Council voted 7 to 6 yesterday to give initial approval to legislation that would make the District the first jurisdiction in the country to license pharmaceutical sales representatives, a major blow to the prescription drug industry and one that could have national implications if states follow the District's lead."

Council member David A. Catania (SafeRx lead sponsor and leader of the Council's Health Committee) is making a name for himself with this move.

""For too long, we have allowed profit and paternalism to be our guide for patient safety," Catania said in an interview after the narrow vote."

And from The Washington Business Journal:

""Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, D-Ward 4, said she worried that the SafeRx bill would set D.C. down the same path as the FDA: too few employees and too small of a budget to combat a far bigger problem. "It promises exactly what the FDA can't accomplish," said Bowser, who voted against the measure, but said she would have supported pieces if they were carved out separately. "It's also incumbent upon us to go down that road and to make sure we're putting in place legislation that is sufficient to a problem.""

"Any lawyer can tell you that this is going to be very difficult to enforce," said Councilman Marion Barry, D-Ward 8, who voted against the bill. "It's a waste of time to try to do this. ... It does nothing to protect patients or enhance their quality of life."

One of the most interesting provisions of the bill bans pharmaceutical manufacturers from using doctors' prescription data for marketing purposes without their consent.

Even the AMA has weighed in:

"It is the AMA's position that an opt-in system would have substantially the same effect as an outright ban on the commercial use of these data, which would result in a major setback for the medical research community and the health outcomes that they are trying to improve," AMA Chief Executive Michael D. Maves wrote in a letter to the council" (Washington Post).

Should SafeRx legislation pass on January 8th, we may see a lengthy court battle before the bill goes into action - Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have passed similar data mining legislation and are tussling with various firms and special interest groups.

Certainly something to keep an eye on...and will hospital administrators be next?

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