Drug giant Pfizer is in more hot water after the company has been accused of paying so-called “administration fees” to pharmacists in Australia in order to get its hands on patient information.

What Pfizer is basically doing is paying pharmacies a $7 ”administration fee” for every patient who signs up for a support program which allows the drug company to market their medications (like Effexor) directly to the patient. Some pharmacists are saying that this deal (struck between Pfizer and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia) is a lot like the Blackmores deal they got rid of that had allowed companies to market dietary supplements alongside prescription medicines.

The chief executive of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia, Chris Walton, says, ”Just like the failed Blackmores deal, this uses a computer system to try to bypass the advice from a professional pharmacist. Instead of delivering better patient outcomes, this just aims to stuff more money into the pharmacy guild.”

How it works is that Pfizer gets patient information, such as cell phone numbers and email addresses, which it then uses to send patients information about their individual conditions so that Pfizer can then push their medications to them as a solution. In a similar fashion to the Blackmores deal, whenever any one of Pfizer’s nine drugs is given out, the guild’s computer system offers up a prompt to the pharmacists that lets them know which patients are eligible for a support program.

Should a patient sign up for the 12-week support program, he or she receives a gift (for example, if a patient is taking Lipitor, he or she gets a lowfat cookbook) and also will be sent emails every week that offer different health advice. The other drugs manufactured by Pfizer that are included with this program are Champix, Xalatan, Viagra, Lyrica, Pristiq, Aricept, Celebrex and Effexor XR.

While some are accusing Pfizer of backdoor marketing, the drug company spokeswoman says that the programs were meant to help patients and not to gain any commercial objectives. She also says, ”Under no circumstances does Pfizer market its medicines (like Effexor) directly to patients.”