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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pharma Sends Nurses to Doctors’ Offices in UK

Source: Wall Street Journal Health Blog

Drug companies are paying nurses to visit hospitals and doctors’ offices in the U.K. to review charts and chat with patients, Jeanne Whalen writes in this morning’s WSJ.

The industry says the programs can improve care for people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma, but critics say they may violate patient privacy and serve as a pretext for drug makers to push pills.

One recent 18-month program sponsored by Pfizer and the National Health Service added nurses to hospitals to discuss management of chronic health conditions with patients. Sanofi-Aventis is paying nurses to train doctors’ office staffs how to identify patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Last fall, the British drug trade group temporarily suspended Merck after ruling that a company program in which nurses paid by Merck reviewed patients’ charts inappropriately promoted Merck’s blood pressure drug Cozaar.

The companies are “doing this on the hope that they will get their fair share of prescriptions out of it,” the head of a company that provides nurses for the projects told the WSJ. The practice is also becoming more common in Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

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