Professor Robert Field argued in an op-ed published Feb. 11 in The Philadelphia Inquirer that a defeated Philadelphia bill proposing a limit to the number of pharmaceutical representatives could have ultimately led to fewer addicts.
Citing a 2017 UCLA and Carnegie Mellon study on the effects of limits on drug detailing, Field noted, “there is every reason to believe that the proposed limits on sales reps in Philadelphia would have had a similar effect. And fewer patients receiving prescriptions for opioids could have led to fewer becoming addicted.” Though modest, the reduction in prescriptions was clear, which Field said still makes it worth it.
“For a plague as serious as opioid addiction, even a small reduction in the number of new victims would prevent a tremendous amount of suffering, not to mention medical and law enforcement costs that go with it,” he wrote.
Additionally, the bill would have required sales reps to register with the city for a fee, wear identification, refrain from giving physicians and their staffs any gifts, and submit any sales materials to the city for review.
As home to numerous medical conventions, which help to boost Philadelphia’s economy, opponents of the bill were concerned that its passage would lead convention sponsors to look elsewhere, costing the city revenue. Weighing the city’s concern for the opioid epidemic against the loss of conference-driven revenue, Field says, “We are left to wonder which threat is the greatest.”
The bill was ultimately defeated by a vote of 9-5.
Professor Field is an internationally recognized expert in health care regulation and its role in implementing public policy. In addition to serving as director of the J.D.-Master of Public Health program at Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, he holds a joint appointment as professor of health management and policy at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.