HEALTH AND SAFETY

» Drug, Devices, and Supplements

» Physician Accountability

» Consumer Product Safety

» Worker Safety

» Health Care Delivery

» Auto and Truck Safety

» Global Access to Medicines

» Infant Formula Marketing

 

Read our outrages

If you're not outraged,
you're not paying attention!


Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.

Patient Advocacy Groups and Drug Company Funding

April 2011

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.

Are disease-specific patient advocacy groups affected by taking money from drug companies that make products to treat these diseases? Examples of groups that have received such funding include the American Diabetes Association, March of Dimes, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, National Kidney Foundation, National Osteoporosis Foundation, Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization, National Alliance on Mental Illness and many others.

In a debate in the British Medical Journal, arguing there is nothing improper with such groups taking drug company money, a representative of the British Genetic Interest Group stated that "There is nothing inherently wrong with patient groups taking money from the drug industry provided that it does not put them under pressure to adopt a position that they would otherwise not choose to take up." He goes on to say that "Patient groups are not naïve. They value their independence fiercely and are quite capable of spotting the strings that may be attached to funding — whatever the source." Other sources reveal that this group is funded by, among others, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Schering Plough, AstraZeneca, Genzyme Therapeutics and GE Healthcare.

Contrary to this claim of immunity from such influences and on the other side of this debate is Dr. Barbara Mintzes, a Canadian researcher who has investigated this issue thoroughly. She agrees that "Patient groups provide information, advice, and support; represent patients on governmental committees; and speak in the media on behalf of patients. They can be a voice for someone who faces pain, invasive procedures, isolation, disability, and at times discrimination and poor medical care." But she then quotes the drug industry itself, from a publication entitled Pharmaceutical Executive, stating that:

"Product managers see advocacy groups as allies to help advance brand objectives, like increasing disease awareness, building demand for new treatments and helping facilitate FDA clearance of their drug." Mintzes discusses the risks to patients of such drug company funding as including:

  • "Disguised promotion channeled through a seemingly neutral third party"; and

  • "Confusion between patients' and sponsors' interests in policy of patient groups."

She concludes that such funding undermines the important independence of such groups and ends by stating: "A consumer group funded by telephone companies would not be trusted to judge the best mobile phone package, nor to be a public advocate on telecommunications policy. Is health less important?"

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.