Drug firms fund health advocacy groups

According to a new report recently published by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, many health advocacy organizations rely on financial support from drug companies, but few disclose the extent of that funding or make information easily accessible.

The unsaid (but, I would suggest clearly intended) suggestion is that the named advocacy groups and others are the “pawns” of the pharmaceutical industry. From my experiencing with advocacy groups, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Yes, the pharmaceutical may be funding the organization to raise its profile and perhaps improve its revenues — after all, isn’t that what our economy and, may I also add, most of our days are based on: making money (at least in part). Additionally, although it is always nice to win two-sides to an argument, companies shouldn’t be slammed for making money, and then questioned when they donate some of those profits to an advocacy group.

I have found that advocates by their mere presence and involvement can ensure impartiality. For example, a few years ago, a pharmaceutical client wanted to run a survey on physician attitudes towards a particular disease and the use and recommendation of their products. The advocate agreed, but felt that it would be more useful to run the survey against all of the treatments including competitors — and the pharmaceutical also agreed. This dialogue, which I have of course simplified here, produced a result that was of value to all who participated — the pharmaceutical in gleaning valuable information on its own products as well as competitors, the advocate for critical and much needed physician attitudes and practices, and the physicians who now knew the practices of other doctors in their community. This was truly a triple win — and I should add a fourth win, because patients clearly benefitted from this knowledge as well!

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