Slippery slope for patient advocates

As patient advocacy groups have proliferated, the intensified competition for funding has led some patient organizations to aggressively solicit funding from drug companies, sometimes using offers of special access to members or other inducements to gain support.

The inducements for financial contributions are raising worries in the advocacy community about the ability of the non-profit organizations to appear independent and credible in the eyes of patients, the public and the government bodies they are trying to influence.

The influence of corporate donations on large, well-funded groups like the American Diabetes Association and the Arthritis Foundation, which each received about $120 million in contributions in 2001, may be diluted because these organizations have many other sources of income. Other patient groups, however, receive most of their money from corporations.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), for example, derived $2.2 million, or 72% of its revenue, from corporate donations in 2001. Similarly, the National Patient Advocate Foundation obtained $2.8 million of its $2.9 million of 2002 revenues from a handful of drug companies.

Although the monetary amounts may not be large, the privileges accorded to donations are very clear. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, for example,

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