Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Are Nurses Embracing Pharma Marketing?

I am not a regular reader of Dermatology Nursing, the journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association--since I am not a dermatology nurse. So perhaps you'll forgive me for only now learning about an article that appeared in their August, 2006 issue.

Entitled, "They Are More than Just Pretty People Handing Out Cool Pens," this paper by Melodie Young, MSN, RN, A/GNP-C, President of the Association, seems at one level to be trying to lay out some of the ethical concerns about getting one's information about pharmaceuticals from commercially biased sources. The article notes that there are concerns about pharmaceutical marketing and that some offices and clinics have elected to ban drug reps.

But the clear message of the article is that the nurse should welcome the rep as an ally and fellow professional. Here are some samples: "most of the people in these sales positions are pleasant, bright, highly educated and ethical, very polished people who truly care about patients"... "The Dermatology Nurses' Association would be unable to host the number and magnitude of educational programs currently available without the financial support of industry."... "the next time a sales rep enters your office, remember to say thank you, and not just for the cool pen."

Ms. Young appears to believe that the present system of oversight works just fine. The PhRMA code of ethics prohibits companies from doing anything over the top in marketing or gift-giving. She even believes, "To keep educational events unbiased, many pharmaceutical companies employ independent medical education companies or professional groups to develop the content and curriculum for these events." Pardon the fact that some of the rest of us doubt the "independence" of companies that rely on the industry for 80-90 percent of their revenues.

It is widely known among those with some familiarity with drug marketing that the nurses and receptionists are often the way the rep can gain entry into the ofice of a skeptical or unwilling physician. One would think that a professional nursing organization would want to warn its members against being used and manipulated for these ends. Instead at least one nursing association seems to be eagerly doing the bidding of the industry--and happily pocketing the industry revenues it takes in. (Not that the nurses are any less ethically pure than the many physicians' organizations that do the same thing--even if they are not so blatant about singing the praises of the "highly ethical" reps.)

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