Philly council nixes pharma gift ban, sales rep rules

Philadelphia city skyline
A measure to regulate pharma gifts and sales reps more closely was voted down by Philadelphia's city council. (Pixabay)

Pharma just scored a big win in Philly. A proposed crackdown on pharma gifts and sales representatives was resoundingly voted down Thursday by Philadelphia's city council, which came out 9-5 against the measure.

The outcome was a surprise to the bill’s co-sponsor, Bill Greenlee, who told FiercePharma earlier this week that he expected the measure to pass. The bill would have banned pharma gifts, including meals, and required some drug reps to register with the city.

“I am shocked and saddened that a bill that bans pharmaceutical companies from giving gifts to doctors prescribing highly addictive drugs did not pass,” he wrote. A flurry of Greenlee tweets during and after the meeting detailed his take on the proceedings. One tweet accused pharma companies of “bullying” members of the council, while another tweet said pharma “was never interested in compromise.”

His co-sponsor Cynthia Bass also expressed her disappointment on Twitter, calling the vote to kill the proposal “shameful.”

Greenlee said earlier to FiercePharma that the proposed legislation was a no-brainer in his opinion, and a needed measure in the city’s battle against the misuse of addictive prescription drugs. He noted input from experts such as Patrick Brennan, chief medical officer for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, who spoke in support of the gift ban at the city council meeting Thursday.

Christopher Molineaux, who heads the pharma industry’s state trade association, Life Sciences Pennsylvania, said in an email after the vote, "Given our opposition to this bill and the inhibitive effect it would have had on the important discussions between our member companies and healthcare providers, this is a welcome development."

He added, "This bill would have discouraged connections that are made in Philadelphia between researchers, scientists and healthcare providers; have a negative effect on Philadelphia as a life sciences hub; and most important, have unintended consequences for patients, all while doing nothing to reverse the opioid abuse epidemic. We will continue to offer proactive solutions–in Harrisburg and across the commonwealth–to help curb this tragic epidemic."

The proposed legislation first appeared on the city council docket in November and sought to completely ban gifts from pharma to physicians and require drug reps to register with the city. However, it was pulled from a vote in December after city businesses voiced complaints about the potential impact on their business.

RELATED: Doctors with restricted sales-rep access prescribed fewer promoted meds: JAMA

Greenlee and Bass then revised the regulation to focus more narrowly to require only sales people who represent controlled substances and psychoactive drugs to register and tweaked the gift ban slightly to exempt medical meetings and conventions.

A frustrated Greenlee on Thursday called out the council members who voted against the measure in one tweet and then individually one by one in separate tweets that included their Twitter handles. None of the named council people responded to Greenlee or posted any information about the vote on their accounts.