Now that legislation to implement Medicare For All has been unveiled by Washington state member of congress Pramila Jayapal, the opponents in the hospital, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries are gearing up to fight to prevent their source of incredible wealth from drying up. As Kaiser Health News reported, many groups that on the surface seem to be grassroots opponents of MFA are actually fronts for Big Pharma.
Dozens of patient advocacy groups, like the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, recently appeared in national advertisements objecting to a Trump administration proposal that could limit drugs covered by Medicare providers.
But a Kaiser Health News analysis found that about half of the groups representing patients have received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.
Drugmakers funneled more than $58 million to the groups in 2015 alone, according to financial disclosures in KHN’s “Pre$cription for Power” database, which tracks the little-publicized ties between patient advocacy groups and drugmakers. As patient organizations gain ground lobbying Congress and the administration, experts have begun to question whether their financial ties could push them to put drugmakers’ interests ahead of the patients they represent.
Although there are occasions when what’s best for patients is the same as what’s best for drugmakers, people should consider patient advocacy group statements with a “skeptical eye” if groups have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, said Matthew McCoy, a medical ethics and health policy assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Drugmakers and patient advocacy organizations have fundamentally different missions, he said. One wants to make money for shareholders. The other wants to serve patients. Since their goals will inevitably diverge, it’s important that patient groups aren’t swayed by their funders, he said.