Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Should patient groups accept money from drug companies? No

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 03 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:935

Rapid Response:

Getting the facts right makes better evidence

Your head to head on whether patient groups should receive funding
from drug companies was a welcome first step in opening up a proper
discussion of the whole issue of funding with or without strings, whoever
the donor or recipient. However, at least one major inaccuracy in the
article by Barbara Mintzes leaves one questioning how reliable her
‘evidence’ is.
She comments that ‘Cancer United, a patient group funded by Roche, which
markets trastuzumab (Herceptin) and bevacizumab (Avastin) is run by the
public relations company Weber Shandwick. The group advocates full funding
of cancer drugs in Europe.’ She clearly did not get this information from
Cancer United’s website, from the chairman or co-chairman of its Executive
Board, or from anyone involved with the campaign.

Cancer United is not a patient group, it is an informal coalition of
key figures in European oncology who share a vision to improve the
wellbeing of cancer patients (‘Every cancer patient deserves the best’).
It is not run by Weber Shandwick but by the above mentioned coalition. It
makes no call for full funding for cancer drugs, but it does call for a
European Cancer Strategy which in turn would press for comprehensive
national cancer plans in all EU members states. The campaign was launched
with funding from Roche but now has funding from another two drug
companies and one patient group, and all the Executive Board members
donate their expertise and time.

Cancer United commissioned a review of existing data on cancer care
which was carried out by Imperial College and which is available on the
Cancer United website. This review concluded ‘substantial inequities exist
in the burden of cancer, availability and access to high-quality services
and innovative technologies, as well as outcomes for cancer. Concerted
effort is needed to address these variations and inequities that are
unacceptable for Europe that prides itself on social responsibility’.
Cancer United is part of that concerted effort and it calls for each
country to have in place: specific plans to improve the organisation of
cancer services; greater attention to quality; more focus on prevention;
and continuous efforts to improve outcomes.
Anyone who agrees that these are worthwhile aims is invited to sign the
call for action at

Competing interests:
JM is paid as Secretary General of Cancer United and has a personal interest in improving cancer services

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 May 2007
Jean Mossman
Freelance consultant
PA13 4SQ
12 Auchenbothie Gardens