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Pharmaceutical companies and patient groups: the influence of funding

Patients rely on patient groups to make their views heard, to participate in discussions and to defend their interests -- not those of firms.

In France as in other European countries, pharmaceutical companies are lobbying for permission to provide information directly to patients, including information on prescription drugs. And their best advocates are the patient groups they finance.

Health Action International Europe (HAI) carried out a survey of patient and consumer groups accredited by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

All the patient groups financed by the firms that responded to the survey stated they were in favour of legislation allowing pharmaceutical companies to provide information on drugs. Conversely, all the groups not financed by the firms stated they were opposed.

Most groups, whether or not they were financed by pharmaceutical companies, opposed  allowing companies to distribute information unsolicited by patients, in other words, information disseminated via the radio, television and print media. But, in the case of companies providing information requested by the public, most groups not financed by firms stated they were opposed, while the majority of groups financed by companies were in favour.

Granted, it is not easy to find an ongoing source of funding. But it is essential for patients that the groups representing them find a way of being completely independent from drug companies,  which sometimes use such groups to disseminate biased information or to lobby the government.

©Prescrire 1 December 2011

"Drug companies and patient groups: the influence of funding" Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (122): 306. (pdf, free)

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