ABC investigation into anticoagulants “irresponsible”


By Sunalie Silva

17 Feb 2017

The medical community has hit out at an ABC report claiming that doctors are putting more patients on anticoagulants than ever before – including some people who may not need to be on a blood thinner  – because they are being influenced by drug manufacturer sponsored education events.

Cardiologist, Dr Andrei Catanchin who specialises in the management of AF at his practice in Melbourne, has lambasted the report for being ‘irresponsible, inflammatory, and misinformed.’

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing that a reputable network such as the ABC – the reports of which the public might tend to believe unquestioningly – would publish something like this …[it’s] irresponsible and will likely lead to many patients questioning their carefully considered therapy, and even stop medication to their detriment.”

Meanwhile AMA president, Dr Michael Gannon has vehemently defended doctors prescribing the drugs and the medical education events they attend.

“I’m not concerned that my colleagues, for a few sandwiches, will undo years of training, years of experience as to what they should be prescribing.

“Equally, they need to know about new medications and where they might offer improvements for some of their patients.”

The pharmaceutical industry regulator, Medicines Australia, and the drug manufacturers concerned have also weighed in saying that the educational events were organised independently of pharmaceutical companies.

“An independent scientific faculty determines the speakers and topics to be presented,” a spokesman for MA said.

The statement was in response to Dr Barbara Mitzes from the Faculty of Pharmacy and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, who was quoted by the ABC in the article as saying that calling pharmaceutical-sponsored events educational is ‘a bit of a misnomer’.

“This is the company’s promotional budget in order to increase sales of the product. These events have been called in the literature ‘marketing masquerading as education’,” she was quoted as saying.

In what it called an ‘exclusive investigation’, the ABC reported that pharmaceutical companies spent more than $2.6 million on educational events for the oral anticoagulants dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban in just six months in 2015.

It singled out Boehringer Ingelheim, the makers of dabigatran for spending $86,000 to send six haematologists business class to an international thrombosis congress in Canada, Bristol-Myers Squibb, which co-produced Eliquis with Pfizer, for its spend of $185,500 to send 25 haematologists to the European Haematology Association Conference in Vienna, and Pfizer, which makes Eliquis, for spending $175,000 including flights and accommodation for its “Thrombo 360 experience” on clotting disorders at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel for 107 doctors.

‘The event included a 25-minute session on Eliquis,” the report notes.

According to the ABC, other spending also included “sponsoring small medical journal clubs in hospitals and expensive dinners for doctors.”

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