PhRMA Won’t Disclose Charitable Donations

by Ed Silverman
Published at

The position by the trade group is revealed in a letter written by Billy Tauzin, PhRMA’s ceo, to Essential Action, one of several advocacy groups that are pushing drugmakers to disclose their global contributions. The reason? Concern that charitable and educational donations result in off-label marketing by groups receiving funds; mask the agendas of public policy groups that debate policy issues, and allow researchers to circumvent normal disclosure requirements.

Two months ago, the groups wrote the ceo of each drugmaker and large trade group asking them to commit to full disclosure on a worldwide basis. Since then, Lilly agreed, expanding an earlier promise to reveal all US donations. But the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations declined, saying disclosure should be made on a national level.

Tauzin used similar reasoning. “Member companies should make individual decisions regarding how they work together and communicate about their work to others,” he wrote. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s Richard Bagger, senior vp of ww public policy, wrote that the drugmaker is taking disclosure steps in the US and the UK, but stopped short of commiting to a global effort. And Schering-Plough ceo Fred Hassan wrote back that he’s instructed his team to undertake a “thorough review” of the suggestion.

In response, Essential Action’s Rob Weissman says that Pfizer will be urged to follow through and to disclose other kinds of charitable donations, especially support to policy advocacy organizations and think tanks. “The announcement by the world’s largest drug maker that it is prepared to disclose its funding of patient groups and medical education further undermines the never-credible claims that such disclosures are infeasible.”

But he had harsh words for Tauzin, and noted that PhRMA maintains various codes, covering continuing medical education, among other things. “Billy Tauzin’s position is that PhRMA as a trade association has no role in setting a standard for industry disclosure practice. It is hard to take this seriously as anything other than a brush off,” says Weissman. “The cascading series of scandals and outrages involving industry misuse of charitable and educational contributions demands, at the very least, an industry policy of disclosure.”