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Pharma industry woos nurses

Pharmaceutical companies have been wining and dining increasing numbers of nurses since their powers to prescribe were strengthened in 2003.

Pharmaceutical companies have been wining and dining increasing numbers of nurses since their powers to prescribe were strengthened in 2003.

The firms have reportedly been treating nurses to meals and breaks at four- and five-star hotels, as well as laying on opportunities for entertainment that, traditionally, are the reserve of the doctors.

The Sunday Times newspaper reports that AstraZeneca has held numerous events for nurses and only last week the company held an event at a four-star hotel in Glasgow, which included a 45 minute presentation. Last weekend the company also invited nurses on a weekend break at a five-star hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Although the event was cancelled at short notice, nurses would have been treated to three hours of presentations on asthma treatments followed by the chance to stay and dine at the exclusive hotel. Similarly, last year the company invited nurses to a four-star hotel near Grantham to discuss asthma.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has also held events with the pharma giant inviting nurses to a four-star hotel in Lincolnshire to talk about diabetes treatments.

The firms' actions have come under increased criticism. Indeed late last year, Matt Griffiths, joint prescribing adviser for the Royal College of Nursing, was invited to give evidence at the Health Select Committee's inquiry into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, nurse Liz Darlington wrote: “I am utterly amazed at the pharmaceutical environment that prevails in primary care and the volume of invites to `educational meetings' with free lunches, trips to TV shows etc that have been put my way.”

However, pharma firms have defended their actions. A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said: “When deciding on a meeting location, AstraZeneca selects the venue that can best facilitate a robust educational programme while keeping costs to a minimum.”

A GSK spokesperson added: “Every hotel is chosen for its convenience and facilities and the hospitality has to be secondary.”

Nurses were given powers in 2003 to prescribe patients medication from a list of 180 products. This week, Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, released plans to give nurses more prescribing powers. Nurses with appropriate training would be able to prescribe for any medical condition and from the full medical formulary, he said.

30th September 2008

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