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Patient Groups Accept Lots of Drug Company Money

A marketing practice just as evil as exploiting sick patients with newer, better drugs far beyond their financial means: Bribing patient groups that monitor progress on specific diseases desperate for newer, better treatments with cash. The flow of cash between drugmakers and patients is the theme behind this interesting and controversial report in today's New Scientist.

Fact is, a growing number of medical professionals now share the very same concerns I do that there's a crisis going on among patient groups, some of which are far too close to becoming extensions of drug company marketing departments themselves, a practice called "astroturfing."

The magazine came to their dire conclusions, in part, by conducting a large survey of U.S.-based patient groups to learn what percentage of an organization's total budget was provided by drug companies. Of the 29 researched, the American Heart Association took the most funds -- more than $23 million. And that only accounted for a fraction of their total budget (4 percent).

The biggest offenders by percentage:

  • C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition: 81 percent
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: 50 percent
  • Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation: 44 percent
  • Narcolepsy Network: 35 percent

On the flip side, only two organizations surveyed -- the National Women's Health Network and Breast Cancer Action -- refused to accept any donations from drug or medical device companies, and, unfortunately, are the poorer financially for it.

Should you trust any organization -- including the FDA -- that derives any of its funds from the drug company cartel?

New Scientist October 27, 2006