Health lobby groups mum on drug company grants

* Many grants from drug companies not disclosed – US study

* Researchers say disclosure should be required

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO, Jan 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Health advocacy groups that
push for more research and funding for specific diseases often
fail to disclose the financial support they get from drug
companies, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Since the groups often lobby lawmakers for greater access
to new and costly drugs, they should be required to make these
contributions public, Sheila Rothman of Columbia University and
colleagues reported in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We think there really should be more disclosure on the
part of these organizations,” Rothman said in a telephone
interview.

Beyond voluntary reporting, she said drug companies should
be required to disclose grants to the advocacy groups as part
of the Sunshine Act provision of the U.S. Affordable Care Act
in the same way it requires disclosure about payments to
individual doctors.

“I think it’s important for legislators, regulators and the
public to know where they get their money,” Rothman said.

The study was based on a publicly available database of
grants made by Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N: ), the first U.S. drug
company to make its grants data public.

Lilly gave $3.2 million in grants to 161 health advocacy
groups during the first two quarters of 2007 — about 10
percent of its total grant giving.

The recipients of the grants ranged from national groups
with thousands of members such as the National Alliance for the
Mentally Ill to small organizations with a narrow focus.

The team searched each organization’s website for
information about the grant. Few had made any mention of the
drugmaker’s support.

Just 25 percent of the groups acknowledged Lilly’s
contributions on their websites and only 10 percent said Lilly
had sponsored an event. None of the groups said exactly how
much money they got from the company.

The problem with that, Rothman said, is health advocacy
groups often push for greater access and funding for new
prescription drugs, an interest shared by companies that stand
to make more money from selling new drugs.

“If you are advocating for public funds and if you are
testifying and serving on federal advisory panels, I think it
is appropriate to disclose where your organization gets its
money,” Rothman said.

The researchers acknowledged they could have missed the
disclosures or some of them may have been mailed to members but
they said the information should be publicly available.

Some members of Congress have been pushing to limit the
influence drugmakers have over the practice of medicine in the
United States after investigations revealed that Harvard
University psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman and others failed
to fully disclose payments from drug companies.
(Editing by John O’Callaghan)