Chicago News: Mayor Emanuel Announces That 4,000 Residents Received Opioid Addiction Services Thanks To Fees Generated By Pharmaceutical Representative License

CHICAGO, IL – Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) announced a new milestone in the City’s continued fight against the opioid epidemic.  Nearly 1,500 pharmaceutical representatives have obtained a Regulated Business License since the ordinance took effect on July 1, 2017, exceeding the original estimate of 1,000 licensees.  The licensing fees freed up revenue that is being invested in opioid addiction treatment and screenings for approximately 4,000 residents in 2017, mostly on Chicago’s West Side.  The license is the country’s toughest regulation on pharmaceutical representatives to protect residents from predatory marketing of prescription drugs and keep Chicago residents safer and healthier.

“This new license is a successful model for the country, helping more residents get the treatment they need while establishing ethical standards and training for the pharmaceutical marketing industry,” said Mayor Emanuel.  “This milestone demonstrates our commitment to protecting residents when it comes to addictive drugs and holding drug representatives accountable if they seek to deceive, mislead or unduly influence the medical community.”

Revenue from the pharmaceutical license has freed up an additional $700,000 a year in opioid addiction treatment and services, with a focus on medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  In addition to the 4,000 residents served in 2017, an additional $500,000 annual investment has been added to these efforts starting this year.  Additionally, in 2015, the City began investing $250,000 a year in naloxone, an overdose reversal medication.  In all, CDPH’s substance use program has doubled its investments over the past three years, with all additional dollars being focused on the opioid epidemic.

“This process creates a structure to hold pharmaceutical representatives responsible for the marketing they do,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno.  “The license also frees up funding to improve the safety net for those who face opioid addiction, one of the most important challenges our city faces.”

Over the last two decades, the deceptive marketing and over-prescribing of opioids has contributed to a national epidemic of addiction and overdose.  From 2000-2016, U.S. overdose deaths from opioids quintupled—and heroin deaths rose more than eight-fold. Under Chicago’s new regulations, any person who markets or promotes pharmaceuticals in the city is required to obtain a license, complete ethics training, receive continuing education and be subject to disclosure of their interactions with health care professionals, including gifts.  The names of all licensed representatives are published on the City’s data portal.

“Addiction impacts every one of us, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure healthcare providers and patients receive the resources and information necessary to make informed medical decisions.  It is also critical to provide access to evidence-based treatment to help overcome substance use disorders, especially when it comes to the opioid crisis,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D.

Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel, the city has taken a series of steps to prevent opioid addiction, reduce overdose deaths and end an epidemic that is destroying families in Chicago and across the country.  In addition to increasing funding for opioid addiction services and overdose reversal, CDPH has expanded outreach and education initiatives, including engaging residents through community health workers, spearheading the Heroin Task Force, educating thousands of healthcare providers in MAT and launching, an online resource providing information about addiction, recovery and local services for residents, their family members and community advocates.  In addition, the city filed a lawsuit against major drug manufacturers for deceptive marketing.

The City’s $250,000 annual investment in naloxone, a life-saving medication that stops an opioid overdose, helped the Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA) reverse 1,544 overdoses between July 2016 and June 2017.  CRA also distributed 4,541 naloxone kits that year using City funding. Earlier this year, the Chicago Police Department announced it will be providing naloxone to officers and training them on how to administer it to save a life if they witness an overdose.  In 2015, the Chicago Fire Department, which has carried naloxone for decades, expanded its deployment of the medication to its entire fleet of responding vehicles, including 75 advanced lifesaving ambulances, 73 firetrucks and 150 front line vehicles. Naloxone is also available to all uniformed members.

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 to $3,000 per violation.  Violations of the license requirements could lead to license suspension or revocation for at least two years.  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 and BACP will regulate representatives operating without a license.