An upcoming conference devoted to regulating and paying for new medicines, which is co-sponsored by the Australian government andan industry trade group, is drawing fire from an advocacy group that complains a hihg-profile speaker prominently billed as a consumer advocate is a stalking horse for drugmakers.
The brochure for Future of Medicines event, which takes place November 25 and 26, notes that Durhane Wong-Rieger, the founder and head of the Consumer Advocare Network, a national network of patient groups, will discuss the role of the consumer.
However, Healthy Skepticism has protested to the Australian government - so far, to no avail - that Wong-Rieger's upcoming appearance is an example of astroturfing. She and "the organizations with which she is associated epitomize the globalization of pharmaceutical industry-funded patient organizations," the group complains.
For instance, Healthy Skepticism charges her network's web site provides no info about its members or staff, or annual reports; most entries date from 2002 and 2003; public policy positions routinely advance pharma objectives, and some funding comes from PhRMA and Rx&D, Canada's pharm group (and here is a long list of alleged ties). But in a recent letter, David Learmonth, the Department of Health's deputy secretary, wrote Healthy Skepticism that Wong-Rieger is not appearing as a "designated consumer advocate." In fact, he maintains that her support of industry positions and her industry funding is well known. [Our thought: The brochure does appear to hold her out as a consumer advocate, yet does not disclose any industry ties. This appears misleading].