A bill to regulate pharmaceutical sales representatives was approved 7-6 on first reading by the District of Columbia Council yesterday. The bill, said to be the first of its kind, would require the licensing of those sales reps, prohibit using physicians' private prescription data for marketing purposes without their consent, and create a program for educating doctors on the latest drug research. The second reading is scheduled with a binding vote Jan. 8.
Proposed by Council member David Catania, the SafeRx Act of 2007 has undergone substantial revision from its original version and would include provisions banning the members of the D.C. medical advisory committees from receiving pharmaceutical company gifts. It would also require drug company detailers to meet educational standards and maintain a code of professional conduct or face fines and loss of their license.
In an editorial, the Washington Post urged the council to reject this well-intentioned but badly thought-out bill, while the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group released a statement in which it warned of creating a patchwork of local laws regulating drug marketing. Instead, PhRMA recommended leaving the task in the capable and experienced hands of the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Justice Department officials.
American Medical Association Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Maves wrote a letter to D.C. Council Chair Vincent Gray warning that the bills data collection restrictions could have unintended consequences for medical research, public health databases and the analysis of drug safety and effectiveness.
It is the AMAs sincere hope that the council will recognize the vital and beneficial uses of prescriber data and oppose the enactment of the SafeRx Act of 2007, the letter concluded. As advocates for physicians, and ultimately our patients, we believe that the collection of data is so important to medical research and public health that it should continue to benefit the patients and physicians of the District of Columbia. -- by Andis Robeznieks