Pharma reps target nurse practitioners

Market-savvy pharma reps don't focus only on MDs when they visit medical practices. They know that nurse practitioners also have prescription pads, and they're marketing their drugs accordingly. And as the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports, they're using the same tools applied to physicians.

Results from a survey published in the American Journal of Managed Care finds that virtually all nurse practitioners have regular contact with pharma reps, and nearly all of them have attended industry-sponsored CME courses. Two-thirds hand out free drug samples, half attended a recent pharma lunch and almost two-thirds went to a dinner event within the last month.

The NPs weren't worried about potential industry influence on their prescription choices. Ninety percent saw nothing wrong with attending pharma-sponsored events and more than 60 percent said accepting small gifts and free meals was no big deal. Might free gifts from sales reps affect prescribing habits? Ninety-three percent said no. But in something of a logical disconnect, more than 60 percent of the NPs thought free samples did encourage them to prescribe new branded drugs.

"Nurse practitioners have been "operating 'under the radar' regarding research and policy on the influences of pharmaceutical marketing," researchers from Boston's MGH Institute of Health Professions and Brigham & Women's Hospital write in the journal article (as quoted by the WSJ). And obviously, NPs are similar to MDs in their attitudes toward interacting with Big Pharma: They believe it doesn't sway their judgment.

- read the Health Blog post