The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Pfizer, one of the world's biggest drug companies, has been accused of paying Australian pharmacists to promote some of its best-selling drugs.
The Herald writes:
Pfizer pays pharmacies a $7 ''administration fee'' for each patient signed up to so-called support programs that involve the drug company providing information directly to patients about nine of its drugs.
Pharmacists say the deal, which Pfizer struck with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia in July, is similar to the one dumped this month for them to market dietary supplements with prescription medicines.
The pharmacists' union said it was another example of the owners' guild using the good name of pharmacists to boost its profits. The union called on the guild to abandon the deal.
One of the drugs included in the scheme is Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering blockbuster Lipitor, for which more than 10 million prescriptions were filled last year through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at a cost to the taxpayer of almost $600 million.
Pfizer will face competition from cheaper generic versions of the drug when its patent expires early next year.
Patients who sign up for the 12-week support program linked to Lipitor receive a cookbook and weekly emails containing health advice. Other Pfizer drugs with associated support programs are Champix, Xalatan, Viagra, Lyrica, Pristiq, Aricept, Celebrex and Effexor XR.
It's classic advertising by proxy and a cunning way to get around the ban on direct to consumer advertising that exists in Australia. Glaxo did the same back in 2002 with the marketing of Aropax [That's Seroxat and/or Paxil to you and I]. They kindly offered special counselling with the A Plus Project...on the proviso that the patient continued to take their medication, if they didn't then the offer of counseling was withdrawn. Great ethics, eh? [Source]
So, if you are an Australian and you have, in the past, used another pharmaceutical product for your erectile dysfunction, don't be surprised if you are sent some paraphernalia through the post that 'bigs up' [excuse the pun] Pfizer's products.
A Pfizer spokeswoman said the programs were designed to benefit patients rather than achieve commercial objectives.
''Under no circumstances does Pfizer market its medicines directly to patients,'' she said.
Yeh, and a cow just jumped over the moon!
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