Intended for healthcare professionals


Industry funding of patients' support groups: Declaration of competing interests is rare in Italian breast cancer associations

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 07 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:344
  1. Paola Mosconi (mosconi{at}, head
  2. on behalf of the Italian Forum of Europa Donna
  1. Outcome Research Unit, Istituto di Ricerche, Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Via Eritrea 62, I-20157 Milan, Italy

    EDITOR—Herxheimer reported and commented on relationships between pharmaceutical companies and consumers' and patients' associations.1 This is a “hot” topic: the debate on transparency of fund raising for voluntary health associations is far from being resolved, and consumers' umbrella associations have an increasingly important role in discussing health at a European level.

    In Italy, at least among the 100 breast cancer associations belonging to the Italian forum of Europa Donna,2 3 transparency of fund raising is rarely discussed and few data are available. Using a standardised self administered questionnaire on the characteristics of breast cancer associations, sponsored in part by Komen Italia Onlus, we collected some information on the sponsorship relations of 67 breast cancer associations. Most of the funds come from individual donations, and one third of breast cancer associations received funds from pharmaceutical companies (box).

    In the same survey we also asked whether breast cancer associations had prepared a document on the transparency of their relations with a sponsor (declaration of competing interests). Only five breast cancer associations declared that they had done so, and among associations sponsored by pharmaceutical companies only two had prepared this document.

    Fundraising by breast cancer associations

    • Individuals

    • Annual subscription: 97%

    • Donation: 89%

    • Through public efforts: 44%

    • Institutions

    • Central government: 14%

    • Local government: 74%

    • Public institutions: 6%

    • Companies

    • Pharmaceutical: 30%

    • Commercial: 42%

    These data confirm the concern expressed by Herxheimer and by Hirst4 on the independence of consumers' and patients' associations and support the need for more public funding for organisations participating in the debate on public health.


    • Conflict of interests None declared.


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