NPS pharma ties under question

3 minute read

GPs have voiced concerns over NPS MedicineWise’s new financial ties with the pharma industry


GPs have voiced concerns over NPS MedicineWise’s new financial ties with the pharma industry

A move by NPS MedicineWise to source funds from a major pharmaceutical player has raised eyebrows among the medical community.

NPS, which has a charter to provide independent information on medicines, medical tests and health technologies, last month struck a funding deal via its subsidiary company VentureWise with UK-based pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

“NPS was well-known for promoting independent information,” said Dr Agnes Vitry, senior lecturer at the University of South Australia’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“[This partnership] is blurring the boundaries between independent information and commercial information.”

Dr Justin Coleman, a Brisbane GP, told TMR the new arrangement “certainly raises the independence question”.

NPS has been a top-ranked source for independent drug information for GPs in the past, Dr Coleman says. “And I’m not saying it will no longer be fantastic, but I have some concerns that this is going to muddy the waters a bit.”

NPS has received the bulk of its funding from the Department of Health, including a commitment of $121.79 million for the three years from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018. This is reduced from previous years, which the department says reflects “efficiencies and streamlining of NPS business processes”.

VentureWise was created last year as an independently run, but wholly owned subsidiary of NPS to explore commercial opportunities that would eventually allow reinvestment in the parent organisation.

VentureWise, led by managing director Greg Hughes, recently sought and received a grant from GSK to finance an independent education program for GPs on COPD and asthma.

According to the grant agreement, the aims of the program include: providing greater clarity to health professionals on medicine choice for COPD, improved adherence and inhaler technique and reduced confusion associated with the use of medicines for COPD and asthma.

VentureWise will commission work from NPS or another agency to develop the materials and NPS clinical services specialists will host small group meetings with doctors around the country to deliver the education program.

NPS CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes, told TMR that VentureWise was “absolutely insistent” that it maintained entire editorial and design control.

The contract specifies that VentureWise has sole responsibility for content and “is not to send any materials in connection with the program to GSK for review and approval”.

“In this case, GSK understood [independence] was what they were getting as part of the product,” Dr Weekes said. “ We have had conversations with other drug companies that have not understood that, and have wanted to influence what the materials might look like… and in those cases we have just walked away.”

Dr Weekes said the representatives delivering the program would be transparent about GSK’s involvement when making appointments with GPs and during the visits.

“That will raise some questions for some doctors. We know that, so we need to tread carefully and we need to keep reassuring people that we are really remaining independent.”

GSK is funding independent medical education as part of its policy, created in 2013 , to stop paying doctors to speak at conferences on GSK’s behalf.

Dr Weekes said NPS would only ever be interested in supporting education programs that focused on a therapeutic area, not on particular medications.



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