JAMA Publishes Fake Science Study of Industry Influence of Patient Groups

  • by: Robert Goldberg |
  • 01/20/2017
A report published in JAMA Internal Medicine entitled “Patient Advocacy Organizations, Industry Funding, and Conflicts of Interest” Susannah L. Rose, PhD1,2; Janelle Highland, MA3; Matthew T. Karafa, PhD4; et al  is a textbook example of fake science.
Here’s the article abstract:
Question What is the nature of industry funding of patient advocacy organizations (PAOs) in the United States?
Findings This survey study found that 6 percent of a national sample of patient advocacy organizations, virtually all of which were not for profit, reported receiving funding from for-profit companies. Twelve percent received more than half of their funding from industry; a median proportion of 45 percent of industry funding was derived from the pharmaceutical, device, and/or biotechnology sectors.
Why is this fake science?
 The authors skew the survey results to prove that industry contributions to patient advocacy organizations are a conflict of interest.   Here’s how the survey results are presented in the article: 

At first glance, the results do not reflect the assertion that “evil company” money is corrupting patient groups.  In fact, less than 20 percent of groups reported receiving ANY funding from evil private companies.   Here’s the survey data formatted to reflect this fact.

As the chart below shows, most of the patient advocacy organizations received less than 25 percent of their revenue from companies.

The authors then go on to conclude from this data that companies have undue influence on patient groups.  Yet the survey shows that only 7.7 percent felt pressure to conform to a specific policy position (which are not provided by the survey). 
From this anthill of evidence, the authors conclude:
“Such dependence on the financial support of companies whose interests may not always align with those of the organizations’ constituents has important implications for PAO.”
Nowhere do the authors identify what those interests are and how they may diverge with industry positions.  Rather, the proof they provide is this claim:
Some groups have “been the focus of media investigations regarding their ties to industry and the integrity of their activities.” 
“Their large numbers and credibility with policymakers and the public likely give even small PAOs extensive influence in specific disease areas. At the other end of the spectrum, large PAOs that receive considerable for-profit support and have sophisticated public relations and government affairs departments likely have a substantial effect on policies relevant to their industry sponsors.” 
Again, no evidence.
For instance, the 21st Century Cures Act was developed by Fred Upton and Diane Degette.  Only after the legislation was drafted did the two legislators seek out the support of a small group of patient organizations.  Where is the evidence that patient groups took their lead from evil companies?  And how statistically significant is that association given that more than 80 percent of funding for all groups comes from bake sales, individual contributions, etc.?
No matter.  The article concludes that: “Financial relationships between PAOs and industry demand effective steps to ensure that these groups serve their constituents’ interests while minimizing risks of undue influence and bias. “
The JAMA article is fake science AND fake news.  It is an exercise in confirmation bias against industry support of patient groups.  It is not evidence.  It is closer to libel than it is truth. 

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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