Intended for healthcare professionals


Should patient groups accept money from drug companies? No

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 03 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:935
  1. Barbara Mintzes, research associate
  1. Therapeutics Initiative and Health Action International (HAI-Europe), 2176 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z3 Canada
  1. bmintzes{at}

    Patient groups provide valuable support and advocacy for vulnerable people but funding the work can be difficult. Alastair Kent argues that not accepting industry money will unnecessarily limit the groups' effectiveness, but Barbara Mintzes believes that the money undermines their independence

    Patient groups provide information, advice, and support; represent patients on governmental committees; and speak in the media on behalf of patients. They can be a voice for someone who faces pain, invasive procedures, isolation, disability, and at times discrimination and poor medical care. However, a different view emerges in the pharmaceutical marketing literature, of “allies to help advance brand objectives”.1

    Can patient groups provide impartial information and represent people who are ill if they are funded by companies that sell products to treat those illnesses? I believe that the conflict of interest inherent in such a relationship makes this difficult. For patients there are three key risks:

    • Disguised promotion channelled through a seemingly neutral third party

    • Confusion between patients' and sponsors' interests in policy of patient groups

    • Inadequate representation when those interests diverge.

    How big is the problem?

    Industry funding of patient groups is common. Ball et al examined websites of 69 patient groups for 10 chronic conditions; 37 …

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