Last week, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance requiring pharmaceutical sales representatives to obtain a license in order to promote pharmaceuticals within City limits. The ordinance comes as a response to the City's concerns about opioid abuse and mandates that representatives track interactions with doctors and other healthcare professionals to help reduce the risks of drug abuse.

Under the text of the final ordinance, representatives must document all marketing interactions with professionals, including drugs discussed, samples distributed, types of marketing materials handed out, and whether or not doctors received payment for their time. These records may be reviewed by the city upon request, or the city may establish standard reporting periods.

To apply for a license, representatives are first required to complete a professional education course. The licensed representatives will then also need to participate in five hours of annual training, pay an annual $750 licensing fee, and not participate in "deceptive or misleading" marketing. The ordinance becomes effective on July 1, 2017.

Presently, it is unclear how broadly or narrowly the City will interpret the defined term "pharmaceutical representative." It appears that the ordinance will plainly apply to pharmaceutical sales representatives employed by manufacturers. However, at this time it is unknown whether the City will also include marketing staff at specialty pharmacies or related non-manufacturer providers who may call upon prescribers.