Thursday, February 22, 2007

Patient Advocacy Groups: In the Pockets of Industry?

Michael Day, writing in BMJ (the British Medical Journal in olden days), relates an account of a World Health organization official who apparently tried to launder a drug company contribution through the European Parkinson's Disease Association. The WHO rules don't allow accepting drug company money to fund reports and othjer activities of WHO; but WHO is chronically short of money. In an ironic twist, when the company (GlaxoSmithKline) found out about this plan, which would deny it any credit for supporting the WHO report, it refused to go along, indignantly protesting the hypocrisy of the arrangement.

One quote from the article is worth the price of admission: Tim Reid, identified as European director of Health Action International, dedicated to supporting the rational and ethical use of drugs, said, "Patients' groups are so close to the industry, that they might as well be taking money straight out of the drug company advertising budgets."

On the U.S. scene, there are a few indications that the wind may be shifting slightly, as Marc Santora wrote last fall in the New York Times. He described how the American Diabetes Association, stung by negative publicity, is trying to tighten up its rules about accepting industry donations. (In the case of the ADA the PR problem was less drug company money--with which ADA is replete by the way--and rather accepting money from manufacturers of junk foods.)

Day M. Who's funding WHO? BMJ 334: 338-40, Feb. 17, 2007.

Santora M. In diabetes fight, raising cash and keeping trust. New York Times, Nov. 26, 2006: A1.

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