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Pharmaceutical companies targeting nurses

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The pharmaceutical industry may be casting its net wider to influence not just medical practitioners, but the broader health care team.

A study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine shows Australian nurses were present at 46 214 pharmaceutical company-sponsored events across a four year period.

A research team led by the University of Sydney downloaded reports from Medicines Australia covering six-month intervals from October 2011 to September 2015. The reports recorded the 116 845 pharmaceutical company-sponsored events during this period, and the number of health care professionals in attendance.

The attendance figures indicate nurses were present at almost 40 per cent of all events, which was nearly twice as often as general practitioners.

Lead author Dr Quinn Grundy from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre said the figures indicated pharmaceutical companies were not only targeting doctors and physicians, but other health care professionals.

“I think the numbers show that nurses are very powerful and influential, and it’s time to fully recognise their role as part of a health care team,” Dr Grundy said.

“While qualitative research needs to be done linking these figures to practice outcomes, I think we can hypothesise that there could be the prescribing of brand name drugs at a higher rate – that is how promotion works.”

Related: Pharmaceutical industry exposure in our hospitals: the final frontier

Member companies of the trade association Medicines Australia started voluntarily reporting on the sponsorship of functions for health professionals in 2007. This is the first time quantitative data on the interaction between nurses and pharmaceutical companies has been published.

“Medicines Australia has done well in being inclusive of all health professionals in their reporting,” Dr Grundy said.

“Such transparency gives us the chance to ask important questions.”

Dr Grundy said such events could ultimately impact health care costings and treatment.

“It could lead to a cost problem where heavily promoted brand names are used over the generic brand, or create a preference for drug and medication solutions over preventative medical care,” she said.

“I think it is the job of the health care team as a whole to find ways to be independent of promotional influences so that we are treating patients with evidence based, cost effective care that is free from commercial influence.”

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