Haematologists wined and dined to promote DOACs

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2019

Haematologists are among the top recipients of $4 million spent on wining and dining by Big Pharma to promote DOACs, a study by Sydney University academics shows.

Industry sponsorship of almost $11 million was provided to Australian clinicians for 2797 DOAC-related educational activities between 2011 and 2015, including $4.3 million for meals and beverages at meetings, journal clubs and speaker events in hospitals, the researchers report in BMJ Open.

Haematologists were attendees at 24% of such events, compared to 42% attended by GPs and 35% attended by cardiologists.

The average industry cost for the events was $50 per attendee, with $17 spent on food and drink.

However a few key opinion leaders (KOLs) in haematology were recipients of $8400 expenses-paid trips sponsored by industry to attend overseas scientific meetings.

Pharma companies paid for 26 haematologists to attend the European Haematology Association annual conference in Milan, the article noted, with sponsorship including business class flight fares, accommodation, congress registration and travel for delegates, as well as a $124 per-head banquet.

The study authors from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, said the high levels of industry funding for haematologists coincided with a huge increase in the prescribing of DOACs following their listing on the PBS in 2013. The sponsored educational events all complied with pharmaceutical industry codes of conduct, the report noted.

The study did not establish causality between pharmaceutical industry spending on events and increased prescribing, but it highlighted concerns about the use of educational events as a marketing tool for expensive new products, they said.

“Our findings suggest that the substantial investment in NOAC-related events made by four pharmaceutical companies had a promotional purpose.

“These promotional activities potentially jeopardise the principles of the WHO’s Rational Use of Medicines and the Australian Government’s Quality Use of Medicines and National Medicines policies [which] encourage healthcare professionals to provide patients with cost-effective, appropriate and safe medication.

“Healthcare professionals should seek independent information on newly subsidised medicines from, for example, government agencies or drug bulletins,” they advised.

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