City Launches New Pharmaceutical Representative License

July 17, 2017

Greater oversight of prescription marketing supports efforts to prevent deceptive drug marketing

Lilia Chacon Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection     (312) 744-5365

Today, the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced the launch of a new Regulated Business License for Pharmaceutical Representatives to support the City’s efforts to stop deceptive marketing and curb addiction to opioids and other prescription drugs. Beginning July 1, any person who markets or promotes pharmaceuticals in Chicago is required to obtain a license, complete mandatory ethics training, receive continuing education and be subject to potential disclosure of their interactions with health care professionals, including gifts.

“This new license is the latest in a series of steps to protect our residents from aggressive or deceptive marketing,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno, “Working with the Department of Public Health, we can better understand the promotional activities surrounding prescription drugs.”

The new license comes amid a growing opioid epidemic, fueled by deceptive marketing from pharmaceutical companies. To increase accountability in prescription marketing, pharmaceutical representatives are required starting this month to receive additional ethics training and will need to take continuing education classes each year. Upon request, marketers will also be required to track and disclose to the City their interactions with health care professionals, including gifts and payments. Additionally, health care professionals can now report complaints against pharmaceutical representatives through the City’s 3-1-1 system.

"This improvement will help ensure both physicians and residents have accurate information about medications, including the potential for addiction," said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D. "As this new license shows, Chicago is leading the nation in holding drug companies accountable and creating innovative safeguards for residents."

Making it easy for pharmaceutical representatives to get a license, BACP has created a new streamlined application on the City’s online business licensing system. The licenses cost $750 and are valid for one year. Representatives who do business in Chicago fewer than 15 days a year are not required to obtain a license. Those who continue to market pharmaceuticals without a license will face fines of $1,000-$3,000 per violation. Violations of the license requirements could lead to license suspension or revocation for at least two years.

In the coming months, a list of licensed representatives will be published on the City’s data portal. CDPH will continue to work with the medical community to build awareness regarding the ethical standards expected of licensed representatives.

In recent years, the marketing of opioids has contributed to a national epidemic of addiction and overdose. Since 2001, overdose deaths from prescription opioids have tripled—and heroin deaths have risen six-fold. Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel, the City of Chicago has confronted this epidemic head on, filing a lawsuit against major drug manufacturers for deceptive marketing, expanding investments in heroin treatment and overdose reversal, spearheading the Heroin Task Force and increasing education and training for healthcare professionals. This new license is part of the city’s efforts to curb opioid addiction and ensure a more accountable pharmaceutical industry.

Additional information on the new license and its requirements is available at on BACP’s website.


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