Very Few Patient Groups Don’t Take Pharma Money

Most patient and consumer advocacy groups receive funds from the pharmaceutical industry, according to a new study released by the group PharmedOut.

Only a handful out of 7,685 health advocacy groups in the U.S. are completely independent of pharmaceutical industry money, according to a list the group released Oct. 13. PharmedOut is a Georgetown University Medical Center project that advances evidence-based prescribing and educates health-care professionals about pharmaceutical marketing practices.

And industry funding of patient groups, including websites and informational materials, is often not apparent to the average consumer, which could mislead consumers into believing they’re getting unbiased health advice.

“Industry funding is often not disclosed on websites or informational materials or is hidden,” PharmedOut Director Adriane Fugh-Berman told me in an Oct. 16 phone call. Funding and sponsorship is often very subtle and difficult to identify, she said.

In addition, she said, industry sponsorship can affect the stands patient and consumer groups are willing to take, she said.

Groups that accept industry funding are affected by that money, regardless of whether they think they are, she said.

"Look at the stands taken and not taken,” she said. “For example, where is the anger and outrage about drug costs?”

Fugh-Berman is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology and in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Meanwhile, PhRMA, the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry, told me the group doesn’t comment on its contributions or grants to organizations.

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