Is your pharmacist being paid to share your name and information with drug companies’ advertising programs?
Oh, I’m sorry–with drug companies’ programs for “compliance and better lifestyles”?
A watchdog group in Australia has their eye on Pfizer thanks to payments made to pharmacists who enrolled patients in Pfizer’s “patient support” programs.
The group uncovered nearly 20 (or maybe more–we’re just talking those they know about) such programs by Big Pharma companies. How it works is, a pharmacy gets paid an administrative fee for signing a patient up for a program that allows the drug company to communicate “health messages” straight to patients.
And I’m pretty sure those health messages are more along the lines of “take more drugs!” than anything actually useful.
It was uncovered that Pfizer’s (uh)”educational” programs were paying out $7 a head to pharmacists who signed up patients. The group is obviously worried that such programs could affect the independence of pharmacists and unnecessarily sway patients toward a certain brand or maker of drugs.
Now, they’re looking for an explanation. They wrote to the company asking for an explanation of the “circumstances of the commercial arrangement to see if any aspect of it breaches the Therapeutic Goods Act.”
Under the Therapeutic Goods Act in Australia, companies are not allowed to market prescription medications that are subsidized under the country’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which is available to people who are in Australia’s Medicare program.
Of course, Pfizer reps are saying that the program (which covers nine Pfizer products) has nothing to do with advertising or promotion. They’re all about promoting a better lifestyle–they’re just looking out for people here!
So why do they need to pay pharmacists to sign patients up for this program if it’s truly in the best interests of those patients? If it were so beneficial, wouldn’t the pharmacists be promoting the program of their own free will? And if it weren’t about marketing, would Pfizer truly be so pushy about paying for enrollment?
This criticism of the program brings up an important point–we’re supposed to trust our pharmacists. But if I know that my pharmacist (or doctor) is being paid to add me to a drug company’s mailing list, how much confidence can I really have in him?
Ms. O’Brien has written for Nutrition & Healing, Healthier Talk and a variety of other natural and alternative health outlets. She believes in the power of natural medicine and her goal is to open people’s eyes to the benefits of alternative and integrative medicine.
Christine is passionate about helping people help themselves without having to turn to harsh drugs or invasive surgeries.
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