Big pharmaceuticals’ sneaky tactic

NURSES, dietitians, pharmacists and other allied health workers are reportedly getting millions of dollars in payments from big pharmaceutical companies.

New figures, reported by the ABC, indicate the companies spent more than $2 million on things like consultant fees and educational events.

It's long been known they spend big on doctors and specialists, but this is the first time it's been revealed allied health professionals are also receiving perks.

Basically, drug companies give money to allied health workers who specialise in areas that align with their product range, as an incentive to spruik their goods.

Data compiled by the University of Sydney revealed the companies paid a cool $1.7 million through 1635 transactions to nurses and nurse practitioners over a 12 months period - averaging out to about $1040 each.

Some of the highest individual earners included a nurse practitioner who received $17,662 to go to "an independent meeting overseas".

However, ABC reports the industry also spent almost $500,000 on dietitians, pharmacists, psychologists, physiotherapists and podiatrists at an average of $1250 per transaction.

The big pharmaceuticals even sent money to at least one social worker, according to the report.

Allied health professionals can’t prescribe drugs, but they can request tests that will lead to prescriptions being issued. Picture: iStock
Allied health professionals can’t prescribe drugs, but they can request tests that will lead to prescriptions being issued. Picture: iStock

The University of Sydney's Professor Lisa Bero told the ABC while most allied health professionals can't prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies could influence them to order specific tests that lead to a drug's use.

"A pharmacist could really encourage more frequent blood-glucose monitoring and that results in more use of anti-diabetic medicines," she said.

"Or exercise physiologists could be versed in medicines to treat inflammatory disorders and make a recommendation someone see a doctor about that."

Professor Bero said it was an important area because evidence showed doctors who attended pharmaceutical company educational events do tend to prescribe that company's products more.

The ABC reported pharmaceuticals spent $1.7 million on nurses and nurse practitioners. Picture: iStock
The ABC reported pharmaceuticals spent $1.7 million on nurses and nurse practitioners. Picture: iStock

The revelations come just one month after 1400 drugs became eligible for extra subsidies as part of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

The availability of these drugs significantly help Australians battling diseases like breast cancer, Parkinson's disease and psoriasis.

Among the new additions is an antipsychotic tablet called Rexulti, which could change the lives of up to 285,000 people with schizophrenia.

It normally costs $1700, but it's now available for just $38.


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