Big Pharma's New Propaganda Tool: Nurses
While going through my email the other day, I came across something that shocked me to my core.
Now, before I say anything else I need to explain something. First of all, I subscribe to a LOT of newsletters and RSS feeds. I get alerts on everything from new drug trial news to tips on which drug companies are the hottest investment right now and why. I get updates from PhRMA and the AMA and Dr. Mercola. I follow dozens of physicians on both sides of the fence—both Big Pharma shills and the doctors who are trying to make a real difference.
And I get lots and lots of promotional material aimed at doctors and pharmacists.
My day begins with several hours of sifting through this stuff for the hidden information the average person will never see but NEEDS to know about. And the other day, one of the emails in my inbox—a Big Pharma newsletter—caught my attention with this subject line:
Who Do Patients Trust Most?
When I opened it, I was met with the following opening line:
To build brand trust with patients and prescribers, leverage someone they both rely on–Nurses.
I’m not afraid to say that this sent a little chill down my spine. I read on, and the chill got even colder. The email continued:
- Drive product adoption
- Improve patient outcomes
- Optimize the therapeutic experience
- Bring credibility to your brand
Now the key phrases here are “drive product adoption” and “bring credibility to your brand.” The rest is irrelevant. This was an ad suggesting that Big Pharma use nurses as a sort of double agent—pretending to have the patient’s best interests at heart while really working for Pharma companies to increase their sales. The final part of the email invited me to visit the website to see just how I could do this.
So I did. And let me tell you, folks, what I read there shocked me.
Big Pharma’s sneaky guerilla war tactics
If you’ve done much reading here at Constitutional Health you’ll know my opinion of mainstream medicine. We’ve got greedy pharmaceutical companies, greedy hospitals, greedy surgeons, and greedy doctors all looking to pick your pockets. The idea of “First, do no harm” has fallen by the wayside and the new maxim is “First, sell as many drugs as you can.” I honestly believe that Big Pharma has almost become a fourth branch of government, spreading its influence so far and wide that we’re in danger of becoming a sort of medical dictatorship.
Are there doctors that actually give a damn about your health? Of course there are—at least a few of them. But bucking the status quo puts them in danger of losing their livelihoods, their licenses, and in a few cases even their lives. Even the rare honest doctor who cares about patients is so paralyzed by bureaucracy that he’s in danger of drowning. But like a lot of people, I’ve had a slightly different view of nurses.
In my experience, nurses tend to more level-headed than their “more educated” physician counterparts. They’re less afraid of speaking out when they see something wrong and they’re more likely to stand by their principles.
Or so I thought.
Nurses are the ones who’re in the trenches, the people who do the real work with real people instead of reading lab results and drug descriptions. They’re the ones who talk to patients and hear their stories, who take the time to listen to what’s really going on and to what’s working or not working. They tend to be more open-minded, more skeptical of the rules—or “guidelines”—handed down from on high. When dealing with a “medical professional,” give me a nurse or a nurse practitioner over a doctor any day of the year.
I think a lot of people feel that way. And Big Pharma has recognized that. And their game plan is to use that feeling—the trust we put in the people who actually listen to what we have to say—to…you guessed it…sell us more drugs.
And to make sure we take them.
Here’s the proof that Big Pharma really IS out to get you
The email I read took me to the website of “UBC, an Express Scripts company.” UBC stands for United Biosource Corporation, and they offer a full-service option for pharma companies. They’ll help get a drug through the red tape of development. They’ll recruit patients for clinical trials and make sure they don’t drop out. They’ll even design the clinical trial for you.
They’ll help you offer drugs that haven’t been approved yet to patients through an “expanded use” program. This is a program where patients can get access to “experimental” drugs that haven’t yet been—and in some cases may never be—FDA approved.
But it’s what they’ll do once your drug is FDA approved that’s really worrying.
Big Pharma sales reps are having a tough time right now. Doctors are a lot warier of letting drug reps in than they used to be, thanks to the publicity about doctors taking handouts from pharma salesmen. As UBC’s website says, “Over the years, the relationship between pharmaceutical sales teams and prescribers has declined. Sales representatives often struggle to obtain face-to-face meetings with prescribers in order to educate them on new products and therapies.”
Doctors are also beginning to balk at the multi-thousand-dollar per month price tags attached to so many new drugs and are opting for older or cheaper alternatives. In other words, doctors don’t want to let pharma reps through the door anymore and they’re skeptical of the insane prices we’re paying for pills.
Big Pharma is just not having that. They’ve needed to find a way around this resistance. So they’re resorting to the sneakiest of sneaky tactics: they’re enlisting nurses as covert drug reps.
That’s right. UBC’s site puts it bluntly. Nurses, they say, are rated as the most trusted of medical professionals. And doctors are more willing to listen to a sales spiel from a nurse than from a drug rep. So they’re co-opting nurses to sell doctors on their drugs. They call it “clinician-to-clinician education.”
I call it unethical and immoral.
Let’s face it: when it comes to medicine there’s no one left to trust
Now remember, this company is part of Express Scripts. So they already have information on millions of people—what they’re taking, whether they fill their prescriptions, how often, if they refill, and more. Remember that “medication adherence score” I talked about awhile back?
Well, UBC’s stated goal is two-fold: to get doctors to prescribe selected drugs by using nurses to “educate” them, and to create “medication adherence programs” for doctors using all that data Express Scripts collects and stores on anyone who ever filled a prescription.
And they’re using nurses to do it because people trust nurses more than doctors.
They have “field nursing teams” and “nurse educators,” who are in reality nothing more than pharma reps with clinical training. They’re sellouts who’ve traded their integrity for a piece of the pharma pie. UBC says its programs are “fully customizable” to fit your “brand.” They claim their nurse shills are “uniquely positioned to leverage and analyze key prescriber data and national trends” to create the most effective “adherence” program.
In other words, they’ve collected mountains of data not just on who fills their prescriptions and how often, but what meds your doctor tends to prescribe so they can pitch him the right type of drug. According to UBC, these double agent nurses are within easy reach of 90% of the country and ready to respond at a moment’s notice. They “can be dedicated to a specific brand and program.” And each one has “many years of experience in collaborating alongside pharma sales and brand teams.”
What’s the takeaway?
For me, the takeaway was that there really isn’t anyone in the medical field you can trust to have your best interests at heart. I used to see nurses as one of the last bastions of integrity in a world where everyone is just out to make a buck. Now I see them as just another Big Pharma tentacle reaching into my pocket.
So here’s the bottom line: trust no one. Big Pharma money is a powerful motivator, and there’s not a single nook or cranny in the healthcare world that’s free of its influence.
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