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Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced a milestone in the city’s effort to fight opioid abuse and protect residents from deceptive marketing of prescription drugs. More than 1,000 Pharmaceutical Representatives have obtained a Regulated Business License that has been required since July 1, 2017 as a result of a Mayoral initiative that has enacted the country's toughest regulations on pharmaceutical representatives to keep Chicago residents safer and healthier.
“This license is part of a series of steps the city has taken to prevent opioid abuse and end an epidemic that is destroying families across the country and here in Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “With this milestone, we are working to ensure that residents have all the facts when it comes to these addictive drugs and hold accountable those who may seek to deceive the medical community.”
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. In July, the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) launched its new Regulated Business License for Pharmaceutical Representatives to support the City’s efforts to prevent prescription abuse. The licensing fee has freed up $700,000 that will help provide opioid addiction treatment to an estimated 1,000 Chicago residents. This summer, the Mayor announced that seven community organizations focused primarily on Chicago’s south and west sides would receive those funds through the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) to expand evidence-based opioid addition treatment.
“This new licensing helps us keep track of the ways these dangerous and addictive drugs are being marketed to health professionals and the public,” says Rosa Escareno, Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. “This new registration law is our most powerful tool yet to hold pharmaceutical representatives accountable for the role they play in our country’s opioid epidemic.”
Under the new regulations any person who markets or promotes pharmaceuticals in Chicago is required to obtain a pharmaceutical representative license, complete mandatory ethics training, receive continuing education and be subject to potential disclosure of their interactions with health care professionals, including gifts. Next year, the City will begin requesting that marketers disclose their interactions with health care professionals, including gifts and payments, and make this information available on the City’s data portal.
"This improvement will help ensure both physicians and residents have accurate information about medications, including their addictive potential ," 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."
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. The city's investment in naloxone, a life-saving medication that stops an opioid overdose, contributed to 1,544 overdose reversals in the past year, especially in North Lawndale and greater Englewood. In addition, Chicago Recovery Alliance, which received funding, has distributed 4,541 naloxone kits using the City’s investment.
Making it easy for pharmaceutical representatives to get a license, BACP has created a 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. Licensed representatives will be published on the City’s data portal.
Additionally, health care professionals can now report complaints against pharmaceutical representatives through the City’s 3-1-1 system. CDPH will investigate any complaints by health professionals against pharmaceutical representatives they believe are behaving in an unethical way, BACP will regulate operating without a license.
Fines are $1,000-$3,000 per day of violation and may include suspension or revocation of the license. We will continue to communicate with health professionals to make sure they understand the new licensing and to ask them to partner with us to hold these representatives accountable.
Additional information on the new license and its requirements is available at on BACP’s website.