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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16875

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: news

Harris G
Senator Grassley Seeks Financial Details From Medical Groups
The New York Times 2009 Dec 7
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/health/policy/07grassley.html


Full text:

A top Republican senator, Charles E. Grassley, has sent letters to the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and 31 other disease and medical advocacy organizations asking them to provide details about the amount of money that they and their directors receive from drug and device makers.

Such funding amounts are often considered proprietary by the organizations and their directors, but critics contend that the industry’s sway over such groups leads them to lobby on industry’s behalf.

Mike Lynch, a spokesman for the A.M.A., said the organization had received the senator’s letter and would respond. He said industry funding comprised less than 2 percent of the organization’s budget. Steve Weiss, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society, sent an e-mail stating that the society “holds itself to the highest standards of transparency and public accountability, and we look forward to working with Senator Grassley to provide the information he requested.” Kate Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association, which also received a letter from the senator, said the organization “was going to answer all of his questions,” but she would not immediately say what share of the organization’s funding comes from drug or device makers.

The letter from the Iowa Republican is part of his long-running investigation into the pervasive influence of drug and device makers on the practice of medicine. Mr. Grassley has also long been interested in how charities get and spend their tax-deductible contributions.

“These organizations have a lot of influence over public policy, and people rely on their leadership,” Mr. Grassley said. “There’s a strong case for disclosure and the accountability that results.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Grassley sent a similar letter to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In response, the group told the senator that more than two-thirds of its donations come from the pharmaceutical industry. In response to the disclosure, Dr. H. Richard Lamb, a board member for the alliance, resigned.

Dr. Lamb joined the board of the organization in 2005, when he was “shocked to learn that approximately half of NAMI’s income comes from the large pharmaceutical companies,” he wrote in a resignation letter that Mr. Grassley made public. Alliance officials assured Dr. Lamb that this would change. “However, very little has changed, right up to the present day,” Dr. Lamb wrote.

In an interview, Dr. Lamb said that NAMI’s dependence on the drug industry made some actions impossible. For instance, Dr. Lamb said that NAMI should consider warning against the use of some mental health drugs with life-threatening side effects. But the organization could not consider such a move since doing so could threaten much of its funding, Dr. Lamb said.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick, the organization’s executive director, promised that the industry’s share of the group’s fundraising would drop significantly next year.

Mr. Grassley’s request that organizations provide details about the outside income of directors may cause some consternation. While a few large patient advocacy groups have provided general guidance about their reliance on industry, almost none has given such details about their leaders.

 

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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963