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Senator Grassley Looking for Funding Conflicts at 33 Non-Profit Medical Groups

Dec 8, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is now investigating possible conflicts-of -interest on the part of 33 non-profit medical groups.  According to The New York Times, Senator Grassley sent letters to 33 medical groups seeking information on funding they or their directors receive from drug and device makers.  The American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer's Association  were among the groups that received a letter from the Senator,

Senator Grassley has been investigating the influence industry money has on the practice of medicine for some time now.  We reported in October that he had sent such a letter to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  Documents obtained by the Senator at the time  indicated that nearly 75 percent - nearly $23 million - of the donations NAMI received between 2006 and 2008 came from drug makers.  

According to The New York Times, the disclosure prompted Dr. H. Richard Lamb, a board member for the alliance, to resign in protest.  Dr. Lamb told the Times that NAMI's reliance on the drug industry  made some actions - such as warning against the use of some drugs with life threatening side effects -  impossible, because doing so would threaten the organization's funding stream.

Critics of these types of financial relationships have long  asserted that they enable the medical products industry to unduly influence research and treatment decisions. According to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Grassley wrote the 33 medical groups  in order to determine whether they receive financial incentives from corporations when they lobby Congress for pro-industry positions on health issues.  The letters include demands for information on money that the organizations have received since January 2006 directly from drug and medical device makers, from foundations set up by those corporations, or from insurance companies, the Journal said.  

Senator Grassley has given the groups until December 21 to respond.  According to The New York Times, the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer's Association all said in statements that they would respond to Grassley's request for detailed payment information.

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