Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Undisclosed Pharma Contributions

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Undisclosed Pharma Contributions

Article excerpt

HEALTH

In 2007, Eh Lilly and Company gave the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) $450,000 toward its Campaign for the Mind of America, which, if successful, could greatly expand the market for Lilly's newest and most expensive psychiatric drugs.

Potential conflict of interest in the funding of health advocacy organizations (HAOs) by pharmaceutical companies is hard to suss out, because those relationships are mostly not made public. After doing a systematic analysis of the disclosure practices of HAOs, "I was very surprised at the large number of organizations that did not disclose" industry contributions, says Sheila Rothman, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

Although there is no general legal requirement for companies to do so, as part of settlement agreements with the US Department of Justice, several drug and device companies now publish the exact amounts of gifts and grants they make to HAOs. Rothman used data from Lilly, the first to make its grant registry public, to evaluate grant transparency.

Only 25 percent of HAOs that received Lilly funding acknowledged it on their website. Eighteen percent did so in their 2007 annual report, and 10 percent listed Lilly as an event sponsor. None revealed the amount of the grant.

HAOs working in areas related to Lilly's highest sales-neuroscience, oncology, and endocrinology- got most of the grants. Sixty- six percent of the money went to organizations with an interest in Lilly's two best sellers, the psychiatric drugs Zyprexa and Cymbalta. …

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