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Sociol Health Illn. 2008 Sep;30(6):929-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01109.x.

In whose interest? Relationships between health consumer groups and the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.

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1
Department of Public Policy, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. kljones@dmu.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper explores how health consumer groups in the UK disclose and manage links with pharmaceutical companies in the context of their growing involvement in the policy process. In particular, it examines claims that industry engages with groups in an attempt to capture the groups' policy agenda, thereby increasing industry's political influence. Drawing on theories of disclosure, analysis of group and industry websites revealed a varying level of detail on the nature and extent of relationships. Only 26 per cent of consumer groups known to be in receipt of industry financial or in-kind support openly acknowledged this. Interviews undertaken with representatives from consumer groups, industry and other health-care stakeholders, highlighted a coincidence of aims between the two sectors, an acknowledgement that collaboration was inevitable, and tacit support for policy guidelines to manage conflicts of interest. The paper concludes by arguing that while claims of organisational capture are over-stated, the shallow approach to transparency adopted by the majority of companies and groups strengthens critiques of undue influence. This may ultimately reduce policy makers' willingness to see consumer groups as the legitimate voice of patients, users and carers in the policy process.

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