GP Sceptics podcast 13: Nurses’ conflicts-of-interest


Few ever talk about it, but it’s not just doctors who are courted by the medical industry. Nurses are also frequently targeted when it comes to promoting pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Barely anyone except Quinn Grundy talks about it, in fact, so Liz Sturgiss and Justin Coleman point the microphone at this registered nurse who did her PhD on that very topic.

The extent of what Quinn reveals will surprise you…it most certainly surprised all the nurse managers who were sure she would find nothing when she started digging.

From surgical devices to wound dressings and pharmaceutical purchasing committees, it turns out nurses have far more influence on where money gets spent than most people assume, not least the nurses themselves.

The only ones not surprised are the companies who have been pouring substantial resources into reps educating nurses, thereby ensuring their brand features prominently when it comes to spending taxpayers or patients’ money. Unlike marketing to doctors, there are no legal restrictions to marketing to most nurses, and few health services have even considered the issue.

I know nurses at my general practice continue to see ‘educational’ reps who promote expensive wound dressings, glucometers and other devices, a full 10 years after our GPs stopped seeing reps altogether.

The discussions around the ethics of this seem to be a decade behind, within a nursing profession which is otherwise such a champion at the forefront of promoting best practice.

Dr Quinn Grundy is a postdoctoral research assistant at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, soon to assume a faculty position at the University of Toronto.

She has just launched her wonderfully titled book Infiltrating Healthcare: How Marketers Work Underground to Influence Nurses   [The code DNB290818 gives a 15% discount]

Quinn mentions the dataset Pharmaceutical industry payments to healthcare professionals which is my go-to database for discovering the degree of links between doctors quoted in media articles and the pharmaceutical industry. That dataset was almost going to sit on my website here, actually, after a friend of mine collated all the reports mandated under the Medicines Australia transparency arrangements. However, I figured the University of Sydney had better lawyers and thicker skin, so I facilitated its publication there.

Also in the podcast, Liz delves into the Therapeutic Guidelines series and finds they come up clean as a whistle when it comes to independent expertise. Such a fantastic evidence-based resource for prescribers! Justin interviewed Susan Phillips, the CEO of eTG, at the recent GP18 conference.

In the final segment we look at the latest controversy from wonderful troublemaker John Ioannidis who has dreamed up a world where professional associations don’t get to author their own guidelines.

About Dr Justin Coleman

Justin is a GP in Brisbane and Director of Education for GPs in the NT. He edits a medical journal and two medical textbooks, and is a medical writer and educator. Further details at
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5 Responses to GP Sceptics podcast 13: Nurses’ conflicts-of-interest

  1. Thinus says:

    Let’s not forget the marketing that happens within pharmacies. There is very little focu on or regulation of the marketing done in commercial pharmacies and behind the scenes to the owners of these businesses. And we have no idea about the marketing within hospitals to the nameless and faceless people who decides what to put in the purchase orders.

    Corrupt and/or gullible doctors are the least of our problems it would seem


  2. I notice frequent nurse Ed Events in the emaciated v18 Medicines Aust reports. Our under-appreciated coalface is vulnerable to disreputable tactics, something I can relate to. When procuring infrastructure for Telstra I had the choice of Sun or HP, but the former held lunches with their experts. I always bought Sun – as they worked with and for me. And being lowest of the low, I appreciated their help. We’re talking 5-6 figures, sometimes >$1m b.t.w.


  3. Med Careers says:

    Choosing a profession relating to health or medical career is a rewarding job but, also a tough one. It is important to know where you are passionate and pursue that dream of yours! Thank you for sharing this helpful information.


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