Aussie pharmacists decry patient-info pact with Pfizer

Australian pharmacists are angry about a deal giving Pfizer ($PFE) access to patients' personal information--for a fee. Under an agreement between the drug giant and the country's Pharmacy Guild, anytime a patient fills a prescription for one of 9 Pfizer drugs, that person's personal contact information is forwarded to the company. Pfizer pays $7 for each record.

Pfizer then uses that info to communicate directly with patients about their medical conditions. For instance, one of the drugs is Lipitor, which is used to control cholesterol levels. Patients who sign up for Pfizer's 12-week support program get a cookbook, plus weekly emails offering health advice. The other targeted drugs include the stop-smoking aid Chantix, the erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra, the fibromyalgia and pain drug Lyrica, the antidepressant Effexor XR and the Alzheimer's drug Aricept.

An Australian pharmacists union is calling on the Pharmacy Guild--an association of pharmacy owners--to abandon the Pfizer deal. "Instead of delivering better patient outcomes, this just aims to stuff more money into the Pharmacy Guild," Chris Walton, CEO of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, told the Brisbane Times.

A guild spokesman said patients have to provide written consent before they are enrolled in the support programs. The patients also are told their contact info would be forwarded to Pfizer, the spokesman said. A Pfizer spokeswoman told the newspaper the programs are for patients' benefit, not for marketing purposes, as some pharmacists are suggesting. "Under no circumstances does Pfizer market its medicines directly to patients," the spokeswoman said.

- read the story in the Brisbane Times