Degrees of Dependency: Drug Companies & Patient Groups

In a survey of 29 U.S. patient groups, New Scientist found only two ruled out drug company funding. Seven of the patient groups surveyed received less than 5% of their income from drug companies, while others were reliant on them for over one-third of their budget. The Colorectal Cancer Coalition receives approximately 81% of its budget from drug companies while a PR consultant for the Neuropathy Association claimed funding sources was "proprietary" information. Joel Lexchin, from York University in Toronto, Canada said "groups should publicise how much money they've gotten from which companies and what it is used for." Even though patient groups dismiss the idea that funding influences their advocacy, Lexchin is unpersuaded: "psychologists talk about the 'gift relationship'. The patient organisations are getting something and feel the need to repay that gift. Whether they are conscious of it or not is really irrelevant."


Public trust is the true currency supporting nonprofit organizations. The surest safeguard of this trust is full disclosure of a nonprofit's finances. This essential trust is risked when a nonprofit denies access to this information on such spurious grounds as a claim that it is "proprietary." Such a response by The Neuropathy Association in the New Scientist survey leads one to ask what is this nonprofit unwilling to reveal and why. Nonprofits incorporated with 501(c)(3) are accountable to the public that grants them their tax-exempt privileges through government. Each time this obligation
is ignored, the heart of the nonprofit community --
public trust -- skips a beat. For the sake of this vital community, let us hope that The Neuropathy Association speaks only for itself.