Nav: Home

Analysis reveals extent of drug industry funding of UK patient organizations

May 22, 2019

From 2012 to 2016 the drug industry donated over £57 million to UK patient organisations, with priority given to a small number of organisations supporting commercially high profile conditions like cancer, reveals an analysis published by The BMJ today.

The researchers call for greater transparency to ensure that industry funding is not unduly influenced by commercial objectives.

Patient organisations are increasingly involved in policy and research, including decisions on public funding of medicines and treatments. Yet existing evidence suggests that many patient organisations have widespread, and often not entirely transparent, financial relationships with drug companies.

Since 2012, corporate members of the European and UK pharmaceutical industry associations have had to disclose their payments to patient organisations, creating new opportunities for analysis.

Using payment disclosure reports published on company websites, combined with patient organisation websites and charity regulator records, researchers from the University of Bath (UK) and Lund University (Sweden) set out to assess the scale of industry funding, its main providers and recipients, and the nature of funded activities.

They found that during 2012 to 2016, industry disclosed 4,572 payments worth £57.3m to 508 UK patient organisations.

While this represented only a sixth of its funding for healthcare professionals and organisations (£340.3m) in 2015 alone, patient organisations seemed increasingly important for drug companies, note the authors.

For the 21 companies that disclosed consistently over the five years, the number of payments increased slightly, from 738 to 772, but their value was 1.4 times higher (£7.6m vs £10.8m).

A few companies dominated the funding landscape, with the top ten providing more than two-thirds (69.2%) of all funding. As with payments to healthcare professionals, the largest donors were "big pharma" companies.

The top funding priority was supporting patient organisations' public involvement, including "advocacy, campaigning, and disease awareness", "communication" and "policy engagement", which together attracted £17.9m (31.2%). This was followed by support for engagement in research activities, which attracted £14m (24.6%) of funding.

In contrast, "support for patients" attracted £3.4m (5.9%) and "organisational maintenance and development" attracted just £1.6m (2.8%) of funding.

When funding was assessed by 30 condition areas, the authors found that priority was given to commercially high profile conditions, such as cancer and diabetes. For example, neoplasms (any unusual tissue growth - benign or malignant - encompassing cancerous and pre-cancerous changes) attracted £20.9m (36.4%) of all funding.

The hierarchy of funding within each condition area also reflected the industry's commercial priorities. For example, within neoplasms, multiple myeloma (blood cancer) attracted £7.5m (35.9%), followed by breast cancer (19.6%).

Diabetes received £3.7m (57.6%), the most of any endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic disease, while the bulk of funding for infectious and parasitic diseases went to HIV (37.4%) and viral hepatitis (23.6%).

Importantly, the biggest donors in these condition areas have recently launched several high priced drugs, say the authors.

The emerging picture of industry funding shows that companies might seek to use some patient organisations as "third parties" in reaching other audiences, they write.

Responding to risks posed by the concentration of industry funding requires structural solutions, such as a shared corporate funding pool detached from current commercial objectives or treatment areas or a programme of public grants, say the authors.

This "would make for a more level playing field for patient organisations that cover currently underfunded condition areas or have weak industry links," they conclude.

More immediately, low-cost solutions to increase the transparency of funding might involve introducing a single standard of reporting for all companies and creating a searchable publicly available database of payments to patient organisations, they add. These solutions could be modeled on the Disclosure UK initiative, which has covered industry payments to healthcare professionals and organisations since 2015.


Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.
Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.
Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.
More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.
Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.
Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.
Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.
Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.
Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at