Pharma company payments revealed


Pharmacists are among health professionals getting payments from pharma companies… but it’s peanuts compared to that pocketed by GPs and nurses

An exclusive report by ABC medical reporter Sophie Scott and journalist Alison Branley has revealed that pharmaceutical companies spent more than $2 million on allied health professionals in 2016-7.

These funds were paid for services such as consultant fees, educational events including overseas conferences, and guest speaking roles.

ABC reporters analysed information from a new database operated by Professor Lisa Bero and her team at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. They found that pharmaceutical companies paid $1,640,079.23 to nurses during the one-year period (plus another $62,829.53 for nurse practitioners).

As a group, pharmacists were the runners-up, earning $266,869 from the companies in 280 payments. The biggest spender on pharmacy was Pfizer, which spent $72,634.

“Some of the highest individual earners included a nurse practitioner who received $17,662 to go to ‘an independent meeting overseas’, a nurse who was paid $11,408 for a similar trip abroad, a Victorian pharmacist who got $7,687 for a ‘consulting service’ and a NSW physio who was paid $5,250 for being on an ‘advisory board or committee meeting’,” the journalists write.

However, the amount paid to allied health professionals pales in comparison to that paid to general physicians.

This group received 12,591 payments adding up to over $21 million.

“While it has long been known that doctors and specialists take money from the corporations, it is the first time it has been made clear allied health professionals are also receiving payments,” the journalists write.

“Many of the drug companies paid allied health workers who specialised in conditions that aligned with their product range.”

Pharmacy Guild of Australia – Victorian Branch president Anthony Tassone told the ABC that he has attended advisory board meetings, for which payment only compensates pharmacists for time spent.

“I have been in a range of these and it’s really just giving feedback to make sure they don’t stuff up their packaging and don’t do stupid things with their educational material,” Mr Tassone said.

Such payments should not be considered a kickback, he said, as such services were in the interest of achieving best outcomes.

Read the full report here.

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