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Caregivers or marketers? Nurses paid by drug companies facing scrutiny as whistleblower lawsuits mount

Drug companies say "nurse educators" are hugely beneficial to patients. Critics see “marketing laundered through your doctor.”

Fourteen-year-old Carson Domey recently injected himself with his Crohn’s disease medication for the first time. But he didn’t quite position the injector properly, so some of the clear liquid accidentally leaked down his leg.

His mom, Michelle, was outwardly reassuring but silently freaking out. She normally pays just $23 in monthly copays for Carson’s four allotted doses of Humira. Without insurance, a replacement dose would cost about $2,500.

While waiting for a callback from her son’s doctor, she phoned a nurse made available to her by AbbVie, the drug company that makes Humira. With a few phone calls, the nurse arranged for a new dose to be sent free of charge to their home in Bellingham, Mass.

To Domey, the nurse was a godsend.

But to detractors, the nurse — and others like her, who are often known as “nurse educators” — blur the line between caregiver and marketer, raising ethical questions for both the nurses who deliver the care and the companies that pay their salaries.

In lawsuits filed over the past year against several of the largest drug makers, whistleblowers have raised

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