Pharmaceutical company promotions to nurses raise concerns

The American Journal of Managed Care recently published the results of an interesting survey of nurse practitioners’ (NPs) interactions with pharmaceutical industry promotional activities — “Under the Radar”: Nurse Practitioner Prescribers and Pharmaceutical Industry Promotions

As the researchers point out, NPs have been operating “under the radar”. NPs are generally allowed to prescribe medications (for a state-by-state comparison and references, please click here). Although this may not be noticed by the public and even healthcare professionals, the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has taken note raises concerns to these researchers:

Our findings indicate that the acceptance of gifts from industry (free meals most frequently) was common among this NP sample. The participants generally regarded sponsored meal events that coincided with lectures about drugs as a good way to receive information about new medicines on the market. This finding raises a concern because the respondents also noted that they were more likely to prescribe a highlighted drug after attending an industry-sponsored meal event.

Pharmaceutical company promotion to physicians has been a subject of much debate and discussion. Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka healthcare reform) has “sunshine provisions” that, starting in 2013, will require pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to report all payments made to physicians, these provisions do not apply to NPs.

With those “undue influence” concerns in mind, two of the survey findings particularly stand out in this regard:

  • 90% believe it acceptable to attend lunch and dinner events sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry
  • 48% were more likely to prescribe a drug that was highlighted during a lunch or dinner event

However, rather than cry “foul”, there is a real opportunity here for pharmaceuticals to “do it right” and thereby improve their reputation. Like all healthcare practitioners, it essential that NPs have information that may be critical to the health of their patients. So, for example, as a previous post has pointed out:

  • Don’t use paid bloggers.
  • Don’t use suspicious apps.

Honesty and transparency are just two of the elements that will be critical in building and maintaining a reputatable relationship.

What do you think? What should pharmaceuticals do differently (or better) in developing relations with nurses?

6 Responses to “Pharmaceutical company promotions to nurses raise concerns”
  1. I see no harm in free lunch. Integrity is integrity and that is ultimately what will determine the medication that is prescribed by a doctor or NP.
    Who cares if Plavix buys you a meatball sub? Would any healthcare provider in their right mind prescribe it if it were not merited or if there were a better alternative? No.
    And being educated on a drug is beneficial to everyone in the long run, assuming of course the healthcare provider verifies the facts and investigates other competing drugs.

  2. Michael Wong says:

    Thanks Nerdy Nurse for reminding us why nurses do what they do and that your integrity will not be bought by a meatball sub! I’ve asked my physician friends the same question. As one of them said to me, how dare I question that his integrity could be bought by a lunch. Food brought by the pharma sales rep just means that his staff gets lunch that day. On the other hand, celebrities who get millions to endorse products, do they really believe in them? Moreover, doctors that get paid hundreds of thousands to give presentations and can really only saying what is scripted, do they believe in the product?

  3. if you endorse something then you are giving it your seal of approval and the perception of most would be that you do believe in it.
    Some people can be bought. Hopefully most can’t.
    Your name and license are on the line when you endorse products as a healthcare provider. If you managed to make it through medical school and are a practicing physician, then sure you aren’t stupid enough to not realize that everything you say a physician will be taken at face value. People trust nurses and doctors to help them when they are most vulnerable. We have to respect the extreme amount of power and responsibility this gives us.
    It all boils down to this: Do the Right Thing.

    And honestly, if you do believe in the product, and you really do use and prescribe it, then I see no harm in you being compensated for sharing that message with a larger audience and being reimbursed for doing so. But thats just my humble opinion.

  4. Michael Wong says:

    @bluechennells8 comments “nursing authorities should subscribe to a clear and strict ethical code of conduct, in regard to pharmaceutical companies.”

  5. Ben Garrett says:

    I think the AMA’s code of ethics is still a good general guideline for all healthcare professionals. I strongly believe nurses should have access to educational opportunities sponsored by unrestricted educational grants by pharma. With the realities of the healthcare system, nurses are so busy that lunch may be the only time they have to take part in an educational session. So I think it’s potentially win-win

    • Michael Wong says:

      Agreed. However, the issue of pharmaceutical influence of healthcare providers seems to come up again and again — for example, the recent the ProPublica “Dollars for Docs” database ( Is the code tough enough, not followed, etc, or is it just that the thought of an HCP being paid thousands to promote is something the public absolutely finds unacceptable, but the lunches and trinkets ok?

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