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Sen. Grassley Demands Drug Makers Reveal Educational Grants to Doctors

Saturday, August 23, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: drug marketing, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has sent a letter to 15 pharmaceutical companies asking them to publicize their contributions to educational grants.

Drug companies spend huge sums every year financing educational grants for doctors to attend conferences that keep them up-to-date on the newest medical and scientific research. Although companies are prohibited from using these grants to promote their own products, an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, which Grassley chairs, found that these rules had been broken in at least two instances.

In 2004, drug company Warner-Lambert paid $430 million to settle charges of breaking rules on educational grants, and Serono labs paid $704 million in 2005.

In order to increase transparency and improve its public image, Eli Lilly recently began listing all educational grants on its Web site.

"Transparency builds both trust and accountability," Grassley said. "I'm asking other pharmaceutical organizations to follow Lilly's lead and show the public there's nothing to hide."

Grassley's letter asks pharmaceutical companies what actions they are taking to "meet the public's demand for transparency" on educational grants. If a company has no plans to disclose more information, a letter asks it to "please explain why not."

According to Eli Lilly's Web site, the company spent almost $20 million on educational grants in only one quarter of 2007. The majority of this spending went to conferences on endocrinology, neuroscience and oncology, areas that include the company's biggest money makers.

Following Eli Lilly's lead, Pfizer has announced its own plans to begin listing grants on its Web site. Vice President Cathryn Clary said that the Internet has greatly increased consumers' demand for information, and that the company is "struggling with how much to reveal."

According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $30 billion promoting its products in 2004.

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