Why patient advocacy groups are silent about high drug prices

While the media, consumers and politicians have all weighed in on the issue of rising drug costs, one powerful voice is missing from the conversation — that of patient advocacy groups.

The groups, which hold multi-million dollar budgets and a large amount of influence on Capitol Hill[AC1], have stayed quiet for one simple reason: drug companies give them millions of dollars a year in donations. When the advocacy groups do speak up, they usually address the quality of medications, not the price, reports The New York Times.

Advocacy groups are less likely to take stances that could hurt a drug company's business, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that does not accept donations from industry. "I've found almost none that are focused on the public health issues of affordable healthcare, affordable insurance, a sustainable system," she said.

Critics of the advocacy group believe they are not upholding their patient advocacy duties by avoiding conversations about high drug costs.

"It is a conflict of interest, because the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, from whom they are getting support, may be different from the interests of the patients," said Michael Carome, MD, director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group.

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