Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Patient groups special: Swallowing the best advice?

I was just reading this article on a survey conducted by New Scientist looking at the financial relationships between drug and medical companies and patient groups. All I can say is no wonder antidepressants are so common place these days. I know some of you, might feel a little defensive on that, but think about it, prescriptions for antidepressants are pretty much handed out like a common vitamin pill...

Anyway with that said, I thought you might find this graph interesting as well as this quote from the article:

One of these groups, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, said it received more than half of its 2005 funding from industry. The group did not provide an exact percentage, but combined information from its annual report and tax return reveals that 77 per cent of its revenue for 2005 came from 15 major donors, 12 of which are drug or device companies.

And for the ladies I thought this was an interesting peice at the end of the article:

Virtuous but poor

Just two groups identified in New Scientist's survey - the National Women's Health Network (NWHN) and Breast Cancer Action - refuse to accept donations from pharmaceutical or medical device companies. "We want women to know that when they come to us, they are getting independent information," says Amy Allina, the network's programme director. "We think of ourselves as virtuous, but poor."

The NWHN was a prominent advocate of one of the clinical trials in the Women's Health Initiative, the largest-ever study of post-menopausal women, which investigated the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The trial was halted in 2002 after finding that HRT increased women's risk of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. "We have been very active critics of the ways drug companies have promoted HRT," says Allina. On its website, the NWHN stresses that women who choose to have HRT should take the lowest dose possible for the shortest time.

The same basic information is also posted on the website of an organisation not included in our survey, the Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR), but its position on HRT seems more ambiguous. The society's president and chief executive officer, Phyllis Greenberger, told The Washington Post in September 2005 that she believed the risks of the treatment had been exaggerated, and described her own experience with HRT over more than 10 years. "I feel better, I have no side effects and in my case I see no downside," she told the newspaper. SWHR does accept funding from the drug industry - including from Wyeth, a manufacturer of the hormones used in HRT.

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