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Financial Ties of Patient Advocates

Posted 2/3/2016

Posted in

  This article from Eureka Alert is upsetting. You may be aware that most/all pharma companies have patient advocates who testify on behalf of their drugs at various meetings and possibly talk about their value to other patients and patient groups. There is no question that this can be an enjoyable and worthwhile activity for a cancer patient/advocate, but it looks as though some of the context has been withheld. 

  On the plus side, I know a woman with Stage IV breast cancer who likely will be taking on this role for one of the big pharma companies that makes a drug that she is taking. The orientation and training will be in Miami, so she gets an all expense paid trip to warm weather, and she is thrilled about doing something useful.That is all good.

  What is not so good is that apparently the financial connections between advocates and pharma have not always been disclosed. Are the advocates still telling the truth? We certainly hope so, and need to believe so. But can we be sure? Whenever I give a talk, I have to sign a form that reveals any financial ties with any company that is somehow related to the topic or the place. I would have assumed that advocates do the same.

  From Oregon Health and Science University comes this study:

 Uncovering the financial ties of advocates for cancer drug approval

Speakers who nominally represent cancer patients at advisory meetings on new drugs often have financial ties with the company seeking marketing approval. And those ties aren't always disclosed, according to an analysis appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine.
"The industry has hijacked that microphone - they're using it as their second presentation at advisory
committee meetings," says senior author Vinay Prasad, M.D., M.P.H., a specialist in blood cancers for the
OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, an assistant professor of medicine (hematology and medical oncology) in the
OHSU School of Medicine, and senior scholar in the Center for Ethics in Health Care.
Prasad and co-author Matthew Abola, a medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of
Medicine, scrutinized the speakers at all 49 meetings of the Food and Drug Administration's Oncologic Drugs
Advisory Committee from 2009 to 2014. FDA advisory committees provide independent expertise and
technical guidance on new drugs. Their recommendations are not binding but often predict FDA marketing
approvals. At meetings, members often open the floor to public comment.
The researchers tallied how many public speakers at the advisory committee meetings were cancer patients
and how many had taken the drug under consideration. They also counted how many speakers represented
an organization, and how many had a financial association with the maker of the drug, personally or through
an organization. They classified each speaker's comments as favorable, neutral or negative toward FDA

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