Nurses now receiving money from pharmaceutical companies. Picture istock
Nurses now receiving money from pharmaceutical companies. Picture istock

Why drug companies pay nurses millions

NURSES and pharmacists have joined doctors on the medical gravy train.

A new study by the University of Sydney has found they shared in over $62 million in payments from big pharmaceutical companies in the past three years.

For decades pharmaceutical companies have tried to gain influence over doctors prescribing decisions by funding their trips to overseas medical conferences and paying them speaking and consultancy fees.

Some individual doctors have earned over $39,000 in a six-month period from these pharmaceutical company payments.

But researchers have now found companies are also providing similar payments to nurses, chemists, physiotherapists, psychologists, dietitians and other professionals.

"There is a mistaken idea that non-prescribing healthcare professionals don't have much influence on medicine use, therefore their pharmaceutical industry ties aren't that important," said lead author Dr Emily Karanges.

"Yet healthcare professionals like nurses and pharmacists often assist with medication choice and encourage adherence to treatment - and the roles they play in chronic disease management are expanding too," she said.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine the researchers show between October 2015 and April 30, 2018 more than 14,000 healthcare professionals received $62.7 million pharmaceutical industry payments

Nearly one in five recipients (17.8 per cent) of the drug company money were nurses and they shared in over $5 million in payments.

A further 2.9 per cent of recipients were pharmacists and they shared in payments worth $654, 241.

The medicine company contributing the most to nurses was Biogen which makes the high cost $1,287 per month Multiple Sclerosis treatment Tecfidera.

Drug company data supplied to the pharmaceutical peak group Medicines Australia shows one nurse received over $2,600 from the company Biogen to cover the cost of travel and accommodation at an educational meeting in the year to October 2018.

Gilead which makes the high cost hepatitis C treatment made the highest contributions to pharmacists. One chemist received over $6,491 in travel and consultancy fees from this company in the year to October 2018.

Shire which makes ADHD medications and drugs to treat binge eating disorders made contributions to psychologists and dietitians.


Doctors still get the most money from drug companies. Picture Getty Images
Doctors still get the most money from drug companies. Picture Getty Images


The payments covered attendance at meetings, speaker and advisory boards, as well as travel and accommodation costs.

The payments to these health professionals pale in comparison to the amounts paid to doctors some of whom received over $13,000 to cover the cost of attending overseas medical conferences.

A News Corp check revealed one medical specialist received over $19,000 from drug Gilead including $10,350 in "consultancy fees" in the six months between November 2017 and April 2018.

"Pharmaceutical companies are clearly courting non-prescribing healthcare professionals as well as doctors in Australia, presumably because of the increasingly important role and influence they have in clinical care," said study co-author Sydney University Professor Lisa Bero.

The researchers said there was an urgent and global need to extend mandatory transparency reporting and institutional policies that apply to all healthcare professionals.