Pharmaceutical sales representatives must be licensed in order to work, according to a new law titled SafeRx, which was approved by the Council of the District of Columbia 7-6 last week. According to the bill, reps will now need a bachelor's degree and must adhere to a code of ethics that includes strict rules against gift giving.
Reactions have been mixed. Some industry experts feel that the law is simply business as usual and won't change how pharma reps do business, while others expressed concern that the legislation is unnecessary and a misuse of money.
"The perceptive value of this bill is greater than the actual value—I don't think the legislation will change what pharma is doing and mandating within its own organizations," said Rick Keefer, chief operating officer at Publicis, a company that provides sales representatives to pharma companies. "The pharma companies already take compliance, governance, and appropriate promotional policies very seriously. If a rep violates any of those things, he or she is terminated immediately."
How this ruling will effect Publicis is yet to be determined, according to Keefer. The company will need to provide licensed reps to pharma companies that use its services. Keefer said that its existing training programs might need to be modified to match the new licensing rules. "Our reps would be operating under the same guidelines as our clients' representatives," Keefer said.
No Data Control
The biggest point of contention in the bill was eliminated from the final document. Originally, pharma reps would have been forbidden from targeting prescribers on the basis of data mining information and other prescribing data.
Recent rulings in Maine and New Hampshire stating that data mining firms cannot be stopped from collecting prescription data played a part in bill cosponsor Councilman David Catania's decision to eliminate that passage, according to reports.
"I was surprised when I first read about the bill," said Mike Luby, cofounder of Target Rx, a consultancy that specializes in selling issues. "To me, this is a very disappointing movement that I hope we don't see followed anywhere else, because you are diverting resources that could be used to improve healthcare. They are putting an extra layer of regulation on something that is already regulated by the federal government."