Big Pharma spends big on doctors, reaps profits

The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on a medication package in a pharmacy in London April 28, 2014. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc is working on its next move in a potential $100 billion bid battle for Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc after having a two bids rejected, as deal-making grips the healthcare industry. Pfizer said on Monday it made a 58.8 billion pounds ($98.9 billion) bid approach to AstraZeneca in January and had contacted its British rival again on April 26 seeking further discussions about a takeover. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN – Tags: BUSINESS HEALTH) The Hilton hotel 255-269 Pitt Street, Sydney. 27th March, 2012. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sponsoring “educational activities” for doctors is so financially lucrative that pharmaceutical companies are spending upwards of $200,000 on a single event, sparking fresh calls for a ban on industry funding.

The latest sponsorship disclosures from industry body Medicines show drug company AstraZeneca spent the biggest amount on a single event – $241,000 – followed by Celgene and Novartis, between November 2016 and April 2017.

In terms of total spend on all events in the half-year period, AstraZeneca came second to Roche, which saw fit to splash $877,000 on 64 meetings, from breakfast symposiums to journal club meetings.

“Sponsorship is a key part of a company’s marketing strategy, and we know industry money can lead to increased prescribing of drugs that tend to be newer, so there’s less data on safety, and more expensive,” said Alice Fabbri, an expert on corporate influence at the University of Sydney.

“They’re profit-making multinationals, not charities, and if they’re spending huge sums of money, it means they’re getting a good return.”

AstraZeneca spent $241,000 as the sole sponsor of the Lung Foundation’s Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group (ALTG) Lung Cancer Symposium in 2016, covering accommodation and meals at Hilton Hotel in Sydney, as well as airfares, transfers and other event costs.

The industry’s code of conduct states the sponsor must not select the speakers, but Fairfax Media found the international guest speakers – Professor Keunchil Park from South Korea and Professor Glenwood Goss from Canada – have ties with AstraZeneca, accepting its research grants and holding advisory roles.

Both AstraZeneca and the Lung Foundation rejected suggestions the pharmaceutical giant had a say on the selection of speakers, with both saying an organising committee independently chose the speakers, attendees and educational content.

The two professors did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr Fabbri said that even if an independent committee made the final decisions, in such situations it was likely the sponsor could still be “subtly” exercising influence.

“The problem is that with industry funds, there is an implicit understanding that additional funds won’t be offered in the future if the event doesn’t present topics of interest to the company or the speakers aren’t favourable,” said Dr Fabbri.

“A recent analysis has shown that even a single sponsored meal worth $20 is associated with increased prescribing of the promoted medication.”

The new data shows 33 drug companies shelled out $8.6 million on 1302 events attended by 231,000 healthcare professionals, including students and nurses, in the six-month period.

The Lung Cancer Symposium was the most expensive event, yet it only offered 12 hours of educational content over 1.5 days to 126 oncologists.

In contrast, the next three most expensive events – each topping $100,000 – offered on average 30 hours of educational content over four days to about 960 attendees.

The Lung Foundation said it was aware of concerns about undue risk of influence, but insisted industry funding was necessary because lung cancer was the leading cause of death from cancer, yet research funding for it was disproportionately low.

“This is the only national lung cancer research meeting of its type and is crucial to facilitating lung cancer research, developing stronger clinical research collaborations and designing new studies which will ultimately deliver better lung cancer care in ,” said Professor Christine Jenkins, respiratory clinician and the foundation’s chairwoman.

Associate Professor Nick Pavlakis, chair of ALTG, added: “The importance of attracting research funding and contributions from interested commercial and non-commercial entities ensures a sustainable lifeline to lung cancer research.”

Dr Fabbri said one option was for the industry to place funds in a blind trust that could be controlled by an independent group.

“The end goal is a ban on industry funding, but there are some steps that can be taken in the meantime,” she said.

A separate database shows 20 companies provided 145 sponsorships worth more than $200,000 each between October 2011 and September 2015.

Overseas, AstraZeneca forked out $US5.5 million in 2016 to settle charges following allegations it paid bribes and conveyed gifts, trips, and hard cash to healthcare officials in China and Russia.

In 2010, the company paid $US520 million in fines for illegally marketing to and manipulating American doctors with cash and luxury trips in order to increase sales of an anti-psychotic drug.

And in 2003, it paid $US355 million for defrauding the US Medicare system with a cancer drug marketing scam that involved bribing doctors.

Inspirational Newcastle triathlete returns to racing after freak training accident

RACE RETURN: Newcastle triathlete Lauren Parker in action on Sunday during the Paratriathlon Continental Championships in St Kilda. Picture: Delly Carr, Triathlon Poor conditions caused the cancellation of the swim leg but Lauren Parker could not have been happier to be racing again on Sunday, nine months after a life-changing accident left her paralysed from the waist down.

Parker’s efforts in theParatriathlon Continental Championships in St Kilda could be enough to earn her a place in the n team for the Commonwealth Games in April.

The course was changed on the morning of the race to instead comprise 2.5 kilometres in the racing wheelchair followed by a 20km hand cycle then concluding with another5km in the racing chair.

The Newcastle 29-year-oldofficially finished second in herrace but there was some confusion over the changed course with the rest of the field doing four kilometres less of the hand cycle.

Parker’s times were enough to put her in the frame for Commonwealth Games selection with two possible spots available but the team will not be announced until next month.

“Aside from the drama that went on I had a great race and was so excited to finish,” Parker said.

“Idefinitely need to work on the racing chair a lot to get big improvements in that area but I know my swim is there and my hand cycle is there. It’s exciting.”

If she does earn selection, Parker will line up for her country at the Gold Coast games 12 months after a freak cycling accident turned her world upside-down.

“It was so good to be back racing,” she said.“I was out on the hand cycle and just loving it.

“I was lovingthe feeling of racing again and I had a huge support crew down here, it was amazing. I wouldn’t have been here without the team behind me. I felt really special and really good that everyone was there at the end cheering me.”

Parker has only been training on hand cycle and in a racing wheelchair for the past six weeks.

Horse Racing: Kris Lees-trained Lomazzo put down after Magic Millions Country Cup

PUT DOWN: Lomazzo winning at Newcastle. Picture: Lees Racing websiteKris Lees-trained Lomazzo wasput down on Saturday after fracturing a seasmoid in theMagic Millions Country Cupat the Gold Coast.

The five-year-old Newcastle-basedgelding, by Magic Albert from Graphite Lass, was taken from the trackto the nearby Gold Coast Equine Hospital after pulling uparound 250 metres from the finish line and falling behind the field to runlast.

Lomazzo, with $117,080 prizemoneyfeaturing two wins from 22 starts, did not recover from the injury.

He could fair dinkum ride a broomstick home at the moment. Jason Collett brings up another win, this time on Zafina in front of a wall of horses for Matty Dale! pic.twitter苏州美甲/iAuyYJ3n9U

— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) January 13, 2018

A woman was later arrestedafter attempting to steal the ambulance that took Lomazzo to the hospital.

She was charged with offences including unlawful use of a motor vehicle and public nuisance.

Reportedly she was drunk and not a protester.

The incident delayed the next race.

Zafina won the $242,500 Country Cup (1200m) by 0.2 lengths from Suggan Buggan and He’s A Moral.

Not Surprising, Lees’ other horse in the same race, was fourth.

Elsewhere on the card for Lees, chestnut filly Sasso Corbaro ran sixth in the $2million 3YO Guineas (1400m) while Powerline was 13thin the $1million Magic Millions Cup (1400m).

The Hunter’s hope in the $2million 2YO Classic (1200m),David Atkins-trained Jonker, ended up last after being controversially knocked into the rail early in the contest.

Meanwhile, Singleton-raised and Lambton-based jockey Aaron Bullock claimed his first metropolitan winneron Saturday.It was on board Lees-trained Sugar Bella.

Jarrod Woodgate and Keira Maguire together at the polo

Before Channel Ten has even set an air date for its upcoming, highly anticipated Bachelor spin-off, The Bachelor in Paradise, it seems that the cat might be out of the bag when it comes to the outcome for at least two of its contestants.

Jarrod Woodgate and Keira Maguire, the stand-out stars during their respective seasons – Woodgate coming runner-up last year alongside Sophie Monk on The Bachelorette and Maguire in 2016 on Richie Strahan’s season of The Bachelor – have been keeping each other company ever since they landed back in after their jaunt to Fiji, where filming took place late last year.

Despite signing Ten’s notoriously strict contract that bans them from being seen in public so as not to spoil the ending for fans, it seems that Woodgate and Maguire just can’t bear to be apart.

They have been spotted kissing on set in Fiji, meeting up for multiple secret weekends away, and on Saturday, they attended the annual Alfa Romeo Portsea Polo on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, with the same group of friends.

Standing side-by-side in the exclusive, Italian summer-themed, Alfa Romeo marquee, Woodgate denied they were together, explaining that their appearance in the same place at the same time was nothing but a coincidence.

When asked by Fairfax Media about the rumours that they were a couple, Woodgate said: “No comment on Keira Maguire.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he added.

Maguire has had her eye on Woodgate since his passionate stint on The Bachelorette, where he was labelled by fans a “stage five clinger”.

Woodgate confessed his love for Monk, but she chose millionaire Stu Laundy as “the one”, leaving Woodgate in tears.

But Maguire need not worry about Monk as Woodgate said that’s all water under the bridge.

“I realised now that I loved Sophie as a person and I think I was being very protective because the other guys were around and it took me a while to realise that,” he said.

Woodgate believes that he acted more like himself on The Bachelor in Paradise as he felt more at ease around a mixture of male and female contestants.

“The Bachelor in Paradise is better with the pressure because you are there with a mixed variety of people. When I was stuck in a mansion with 20 other blokes when I had no idea who they are or what they want, it’s harder,” he said.

Woodgate has no regrets about his time on The Bachelorette, with his appearance helping to triple visitors to his family’s vineyard, Toms Cap Vineyard in Gippsland.

“Life since The Bachelorette has been epic,” Woodgate said.

“We get people calling up to find out if Jarrod from The Bachelorette will be there and then they come down to get pictures with me, just because of the show.”

Despite the downpours on Saturday, the stars still turned out in their Sunday best for what has become one of the most stylish events on Melbourne’s social calendar.

Actor and director, Gracie Otto, Offspring’s Asher Keddie and her artist husband Vincent Fantauzzo, and fashion influencers Clementine McVeigh and Rozalia Russian were all special guests of the main sponsor, Alfa Romeo.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Bec Judd, Lindy Klim, Georgia Love, Sam Wood and his fianc?? Snezana Markoski??? were also in attendance.

Fairfax Media has asked Channel Ten for comment.

Brumbies women’s coach backs Super W to become professional

New Brumbies women’s coach Tony Doherty and player Jane Garroway. Photo by Karleen Minney.ACT Brumbies women’s coach Tony Doherty has backed Super W to become a professional league in the coming years on the back of the n women’s sport movement.

The inaugural Super W season kicks off in March but first the women will play in conjunction with the men at the Brisbane Global Tens on February 9-10.

Female players were the biggest winners when rugby’s new collective bargaining agreement was announced last week, with entry-level full-time minimum salaries for Super Rugby and male and female sevens players.

The Wallaroos will receive Test match payments for the first time and Doherty believes Super W players are next in line for a pay day as the competition grows.

“We have a few Wallaroos in the squad, so if they’re selected again this year they’ll get paid but it would be great to get all the Super W players paid,” Doherty said.

“We hope that will be the situation soon as it would put everyone on level pegging, currently most have to rely on their jobs for income and it would be awesome to have a professional income through rugby.”

The Brumbies held an open trial on Saturday which attracted more than 60 players from the ACT region, before Doherty named his 30-player squad on Sunday.

“We put the girls through fitness and skills sessions then had a few trial matches and it was an arduous task coming back to 30 names,” Doherty said.

“It’s great for the sport to have so much competition, we’ve selected a squad with some experienced players as well as some new and exciting talent.”

After the Brisbane tournament the women will play in a four-game round robin Super W season, with the top two teams playing a grand final.

“The NRL, ALF, Cricket and the W-League are all growing women’s sport and it’s great rugby is providing another platform for women’s sport to be on the big stage,” Doherty said.

“For our girls it’s about being competitive in all our games and the players are really excited for the opportunity and to be a part of n rugby history.”

ACT Brumbies: Emerena Aviga, Brittney-lee Bedford, Kate Brown, Louise Burrows, Skye Churchill, Peta Cox, Harriet Elleman, Charlene Gubb, Jess Howard, Anna Korovata, Michaela Leonard, Irene Macarthur, Shellie Milward, Georgia O’Neill, Tayla Stanford, Merrin Starr, Violeta Tupuola, Tania Afamasaga, Izzy Atkinson-Smith, Kiahan Bell-Chambers, Kasey Dragisic, Courtney Frankl, Jane Garraway, Ash Kara, Paremo Marsh, Kiara Meredith-Brown, Michelle Perry, Darcy Read, Cecelia Smith, Talei Wilson, Remi Wilton.