Pharmaceutical industry payments and assisted reproduction in Australia: a retrospective observational study

Emily A. Karanges, Conrad Nangla, Lisa Parker, Alice Fabbri, Cynthia Farquhar, Lisa Bero

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Objectives To investigate the extent and nature of pharmaceutical industry payments related to fertility and assisted reproduction in Australia.

Design and setting This retrospective observational study employed four databases compiled from publicly available pharmaceutical industry transparency reports on educational event sponsorship (October 2011–April 2018), payments to healthcare professionals (October 2015–April 2018) and patient group support (January 2013–December 2017). Analyses were restricted to fertility-related payments by two major manufacturers of fertility medicines in Australia: Merck Serono and Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD).

Primary and secondary outcome measures Descriptive statistics on fertility-related payments and other transfers of value (counts, total and median costs in Australian dollars) for educational events and to healthcare professionals and patient groups.

Results Between October 2011 and April 2018, Merck Serono and MSD spent $A4 522 263 on 970 fertility-related events for healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses and fertility scientists. 56.8% (551/970) events were held by fertility clinics and 29.3% (284/970) by professional medical associations. Between October 2015 and April 2018, Merck Serono spent $A403 800 across 177 payments to 118 fertility healthcare professionals, predominantly for educational event attendance. Recipients included obstetricians and gynaecologists (76.3% of payments, 135/177), nurses (11.3%, 20/177) and embryologists/fertility scientists (9.6%, 17/117). The highest paid healthcare professionals held leadership positions in major fertility clinics. Merck Serono provided $A662 850 to fertility-related patient groups for advocacy and education (January 2013–December 2017).

Conclusions The pharmaceutical industry sponsored a broad range of fertility clinicians and organisations, including doctors, nurses, embryologists, professional medical organisations, fertility clinics and patient groups. This sponsorship may contribute to the overuse of fertility services.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere049710
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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