Non-profit patient groups often aren’t transparent about the funding they receive from the pharmaceutical and health care industries, raising concerns about conflicts of interest, according to a new study in The BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.
The systematic review of patient groups looked at data from a limited set of 26 studies. It found that anywhere from 20% to more than 80% of patient groups had some industry funding. The analysis also found that only a fraction of patient groups disclose their funding on their websites.
“These findings reveal the breadth and depth of relationships between patient groups and pharmaceutical and medical device companies. The issue is likely even more widespread than portrayed, as included studies only examined relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, excluding connections with the food industry, health insurers, and other companies in the wellness sphere,” say the authors of an editorial accompanying the new study.
“More importantly, these results suggest that financial relationships pose real, not potential, conflicts of interest—with alignment between organizational positions and industry interests even when contrary to patient welfare. This is of particular concern given the power of patient groups internationally. When pharmaceutical and medical device companies lobby political leaders, the financial motivation is readily apparent, but when patient groups or individual patients engage in similar efforts, government and society assume they are acting independently in the interests of patients.”