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Pharmaceutical industry funding of events for healthcare professionals on non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants in Australia: an observational study
  1. Behrad Behdarvand,
  2. Emily A Karanges,
  3. Lisa Bero
  1. Charles Perkins Centre and School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisa Bero; lisa.bero{at}


Objectives To describe the nature, frequency and content of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulant (NOAC)-related events for healthcare professionals sponsored by the manufacturers of the NOACs in Australia. A secondary objective is to compare these data to the rate of dispensing of the NOACs in Australia.

Design and setting This cross-sectional study examined consolidated data from publicly available Australian pharmaceutical industry transparency reports from October 2011 to September 2015 on NOAC-related educational events. Data from April 2011 to June 2016 on NOAC dispensing, subsidised under Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), were obtained from the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services.

Main outcome measures Characteristics of NOAC-related educational events including costs (in Australian dollars, $A), numbers of events, information on healthcare professional attendees and content of events; and NOAC dispensing rates.

Results During the study period, there were 2797 NOAC-related events, costing manufacturers a total of $A10 578 745. Total expenditure for meals and beverages at all events was $A4 238 962. Events were predominantly attended by general practitioners (42%, 1174/2797), cardiologists (35%, 977/2797) and haematologists (23%, 635/2797). About 48% (1347/2797) of events were held in non-clinical settings, mainly restaurants, bars and cafes. Around 55% (1551/2797) of events consisted of either conferences, meetings or seminars. The analysis of the content presented at two events detected promotion of NOACs for unapproved indications, an emphasis on a favourable benefit/harm profile, and that all speakers had close ties with the manufacturers of the NOACs. Following PBS listings relevant to each NOAC, the numbers of events related to that NOAC and the prescribing of that NOAC increased.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that the substantial investment in NOAC-related events made by four pharmaceutical companies had a promotional purpose. Healthcare professionals should seek independent information on newly subsidised medicines from, for example, government agencies or drug bulletins.

  • public health
  • medical ethics
  • medical education & training
  • quality in health care
  • haematology
  • cardiology

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  • Contributors LB conceived the study. BB wrote the first and subsequent drafts, extracted and analysed the data, and contributed to the study design. EAK contributed to the study design, assisted with analyses and critically revised the manuscript. LB participated in creating the original database and critically revised the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript. LB affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate and transparent account of the study being reported and that no important aspects of the study have been omitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository.

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