Not that long ago the Senate committee investigating unreported funds doctors had received from pharmaceutical companies revealed that the organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for the past 5 years has received 56% of it’s funding from pharmaceutical companies.
Today the New York Times ran an article, Drug makers are advocacy groups biggest donors, on this relationship NAMI has with the pharmaceutical industry. The allegations made in this article go even further.
But according to investigators in Mr. Grassley’s office and documents obtained by The New York Times, drug makers from 2006 to 2008 contributed nearly $23 million to the alliance, about three-quarters of its donations.
With ¾ of the donations NAMI receives coming from drug companies I would call that subsidizing. This situation is more than worrisome. Financially speaking, NAMI is a front for the drug industry.
Due to the actions of Senator Charles Grassley’s committee, and similar to the way Eli Lilly is posting the names of doctors it funds, NAMI is now posting the names of its major donors to its website.
Mr. Fitzpatrick said Mr. Grassley’s scrutiny, which he described as understandable given the attention paid to potential conflicts of interest in medicine, had led his organization to begin posting on its Web site the names of companies that donate $5,000 or more. And he predicted that other patient and disease advocacy groups would be prodded by Mr. Grassley’s investigation to do the same.
Wouldn’t you know it? NAMI lobbies on behalf of drug companies, drug companies that happen to have their own lobbyists.
For years, the alliance has fought states’ legislative efforts to limit doctors’ freedom to prescribe drugs, no matter how expensive, to treat mental illness in patients who rely on government health care programs like Medicaid. Some of these medicines routinely top the list of the most expensive drugs that states buy for their poorest patients.
The article goes on to mention last weeks annual 300$ dollar a plate bash put on by the organization and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. A researcher from Bristol-Myers Squibb spoke to the audience at this event.
The NY Times has documents showing that drug company executives have also given NAMI direct advice on how to forcefully advocate on issues that affect drug company profits. One such meeting mentioned was with executives from AstraZeneca.
Although Michael Fitzpatrick, the organization’s director, says he hopes to be able to decrease the amount of funding NAMI receives from drug companies, other aspects of this relationship are unlikely to change. This is unfortunate as there are many dangers associated with these pharmaceutical products that are not going to be diminished by NAMI’s continuing cozy relationship with drug manufacturers, drug manufacturers whose aims are by no means altruistic.