Nurses who work for drug companies
Nursing Drugmakers Back To Health
May 30th, 2007 8:23 am By Ed Silverman
Britain’s state-financed health-care system prides itself on providing care for all. But the system’s funding pinch is causing some doctors’ offices to rely on financial support from the pharmaceutical industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Drugmakers are paying for nurses to study patient charts to identify people with chronic illnesses. The nurses, who come from nursing contractors, then recommend which patients should be called in for a check-up and perhaps prescribed new treatment - sometimes a medicine made by the company funding the nurses. The work is part of what the industry calls “disease management programs,” which drugmakers say improve care for people with illnesses like diabetes, asthma or heart disease.
The risk, however, is that companies use the programs as a back door for marketing pills. The programs also raise concerns about patient privacy. Last fall, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, a trade group, temporarily suspended Merck’s UK subsidiary from its ranks after finding Merck used a program for patients with high blood pressure to promote its drug Cozaar.
Drug companies are “doing this on the hope that they will get their fair share of prescriptions out of it,” says Steve Kerridge, head of In2Focus, a U.K. firm that provides nurses for the projects.
Jim Kennedy, a physician from Middlesex, England, says he’s turned down offers from drug reps to send special nurse teams to his practice. There is a “perceived or real risk of the pharmaceutical companies’ interests taking precedence over the patients’ interests,” says Dr. Kennedy, who is also the spokesman for the Royal College of General Practitioners, a professional group. He says many doctors in his group share his concern.
This is the rest of the story that appears in The Wall Street Journal:
While company-sponsored nurse teams are most common in Britain, the practice is growing in other countries that also pay for medical care including Belgium, Germany and Ireland, says Hywell Evans, head of the European unit of Quintiles Transnational Corp., a company based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., that provides nurses and other services to drug companies.
The U.S. runs industry-sponsored disease-management programs, too, but most often are targeted at patients on Medicaid or Medicare. The biggest programs to date have been financed by Pfizer Inc., which has a subsidiary called Pfizer Health Solutions to manage the projects.
From 2001 through 2005, Pfizer sponsored a program for tens of thousands of Florida Medicaid patients with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. A team of Pfizer-sponsored nurses and care managers kept in touch with patients by phone or through personal visits, encouraging them to eat well, exercise and take their medication. Pfizer promised to save the state money by reducing the patients’ need for costly emergency care. In return, Florida agreed to give Pfizer drugs preferred status in the Medicaid program. Opinions are divided as to whether the program saved Florida money.