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The Cheats’ Guide to Issues Surrounding Pharma Marketing

Hi Pharma Phriends

Below is an extract from the introduction to a study recently published in the Nursing Ethics Journal which looked at public perceptions to nurse practitioners’ participation in pharmaceutical marketing. This excerpt has some interesting and simple background information for anyone looking to get a quick intro to the subject of pharmaceutical marketing.

Although it primarily addresses issues relating to nurse practitioners, this can be (and is in the study) generalised to all health professionals who are targeted by pharmaceutical marketing.

Happy reading!
Jacqui on behalf of Pharma Phacts


Pharmaceutical marketing is widespread and targets health care professionals and nurses by means of samples, meals, small and large gifts, programs, and one-on-one attention from pharmaceutical representatives.

Research indicates that professionals’ participation in marketing may have two negative effects. The first, and more obvious,
is that it influences health care professionals’ abilities to make decisions in patients’ best interests and may result in compromised patient care. Second, when provider participation in marketing is observed or believed to occur, trust in health care professionals may be eroded. Since trust is a cornerstone of nurses’ relationship with patients and with the public, protecting trust should be a priority in nursing practice.

Intense pharmaceutical marketing has resulted in widespread global movement among professional organizations and institutions to strengthen their policies on conflict of interest and to limit or ban pharmaceutical marketing to professionals.

The World Health Organization has worked with rational drug use programs since the 1980s and has set up a network of intranational and international groups that work towards the more appropriate use of essential drugs. Many professional organizations have developed practice standards and professional guidelines to limit health care provider relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

More recently, both consumer and professional organizations have called for complete elimination of marketing participation by professionals. The revised Guidelines for the Australia College of Physicians (ACP) ban all gifts, including drug samples, explaining this change is a direct result of current community and public attitudes toward pharmaceutical marketing. The ACP has a clear understanding that professional behavior concerning what is ethically appropriate should be guided by public rather than by professional or personal perceptions.

Nurses and other health care providers should give deference to the public standard of appropriateness rather than their own standard because, if the public perception is negative about such behavior, then trust may be compromised. If clear evidence exists that public and patient attitudes are more negative about professionals participating
in pharmaceutical marketing, then nurses, as well as other providers, should limit or stop this participation in order to conform to the public’s view.

The authors then go on to elaborate on their study, which researched the public’s opinion on this matter.

Healthy Skepticism’s library reference - HSL16276

Crigger NJ, Courter L, Hayes K, Shepherd K.
Public perceptions of health care professionals’ participation in pharmaceutical marketing.
Nurs Ethics 2009 Sep 16: (5): 647-58



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Pharma Phacts are a medical student group committed to raising awareness about pharmaceutical companies and their interactions with medical students.