Charities and patient groups should declare interests

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7400.1211-a (Published 29 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1211

Charities and industry: Setting a few facts straight

Editor –

While acknowledging Jenny Hirst's genuine concern about the
relationship between medical charities and pharmaceutical companies,
expressed in her letter featured in last week's BMJ ('Charities and
Patient Groups Should Declare Interests' - May 31), it is important to
address some factual inaccuracies contained in the published item.

Firstly, in 2002 Arthritis Care launched an information campaign to
promote the Government's National Institute for Clinical Excellence
(NICE) guidance on Cox-2 inhibitors, which were found to hold potential
benefits for some people with arthritis.

In fact, Arthritis Care had been approached by NICE to find ways of
communicating this information to people with arthritis.

Secondly, and contrary to Ms Hirst's assertion, all Arthritis Care
literature sent to enquirers as part of the campaign clearly stated that
two pharmaceutical companies had provided funding through a grant, and
identified each company accordingly.

However, and of equal relevance, no specific brands of Cox-2
inhibitor were either referred to by name or recommended. Furthermore the
campaign had a wider brief than Ms Hirst appears to appreciate, with
enquirers receiving detailed information packs providing general
information on a range of treatments, complimentary therapies and diets.

It is vitally important to Arthritis Care that pharmaceutical funding
is only accepted according to strict policy guidelines that maintain our

One of Arthritis Care's primary roles is to keep people with
arthritis informed about new developments which may serve as an aid when
living with the disease. The NICE guidelines on Cox-2 inhibitors fell
firmly into this category, and enabled many people with arthritis to learn
of a new and potentially beneficial course of treatment.

It is exactly the kind of role that Arthritis Care is, and remains,
committed to performing on behalf of all people with arthritis across the
United Kingdom.

Finally, Ms Hirst wins a sympathetic ear in her call for
transparency. Arthritis Care has for many years listed all pharmaceutical
company donations and grants in our Annual Review.

It may be of further interest for her to note, therefore, that over
the past five years (1998 – 2002 inc.), pharmaceutical industry
contributions constituted less than 6.5 per cent of Arthritis Care's total
income for the period.

Yours Sincerely,

William Butler
Chief Executive
Arthritis Care

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 June 2003
William Butler
Chief Executive
Dr David Doyle, Dr Richard Hull, Mr Neil Betteridge, Mr Kieran Kettleton, Mr Mo Atchia
Arthritis Care, Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD