The Lancet has this week called for UK patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry to be completely transparent over funding, saying that - despite a May 1 deadline from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry as part of its beefed-up Code of Practice - not all manufacturers have yet made a declaration of the patient groups they fund.
But, notes The Lancet, patient groups must themselves make public when they are receiving monies from the pharmaceutical industry. Although the majority do, it says the information is usually “buried in the small print on websites,” and points to the recent saga over Roche's cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab). Leading charity CancerBACUP planted itself firmly on the side of Herceptin, calling the data “impressive” and the drug “a breakthrough,” with no analysis of the potentially serious cardiovascular side effects associated with its use and no disclosure that, in fact, Roche sponsors the charity.
The journal argues that CancerBACUP would have “better served” cancer patients by presenting information relating not only to the drug's efficacy, but also to its adverse events and cost-effectiveness. “CancerBACUP's failure to discuss these concerns and to mention its drug-company sponsor in a press release on this topic, undermines the group's credibility and raises the question in whose interest the group works.”