There is nothing more important than having a solid reputation when it comes to building a solid friendship, business, or professional practice involved in health care. It is vital that the recommendations and opinions from a trusted source do not become clouded by inconsistencies and conflicts of interest.
If any institution has lived up to a reputation gold standard it would be the American Heart Association.
I believed this until I became aware of their serious conflict of interest by accepting money from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which apparently influenced their decision to reveal problems with the safety and validity of drugs they are recommending.
Here is the article from Jim Edwards of B.net that reveals the serious problems with the AHA’s recommendations:
The American Heart Association said that the data are “inconclusive” on whether GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s diabetes drug Avandia carries an increased risk of heart problems. But the organization’s statement does not disclose the fact that GSK gave AHA more than $3.6 million in donations since 2006.
The AHA has slipped up on disclosure issues before. In 2008, the company put out a statement saying it did not believe Vytorin was “unsafe” after a study of the cholesterol drug found it did not reduce artery plaque. Only later did it highlight the fact that Schering-Plough and Merck (MRK), Vytorin’s marketers, were big donors to AHA.
Getting to the bottom of whether Avandia does or does not increase heart attacks in its patients is crucial, both for the thousands of patients who still take the drug and for GSK, which earned $310 million in revenues on Avandia in Q4 2009. The data are, indeed, confusing, and you can cherry-pick arguments from them that support both sides.
The fact that the AHA — which millions trust for its advice on heart health — has not properly disclosed its apparent financial conflict of interest in either its press release or its full statement in the journal Circulation, is therefore disappointing. (I’m not suggesting that the authors of the statement have let money get in the way of their science, just that appearances of conflicts ought to be disclosed.) The AHA said:
The data are inconclusive on heart risks from a class of blood sugar-lowering drugs called thiazolidinediones (TZDs) such as pioglitazone (Actos) or rosiglitazone (Avandia), but the medications should be used with close monitoring from healthcare providers
In AHA’s 2008-2009 fiscal year, the last period for which numbers are available, the organization received $131 million in funding from drug and medical device companies. Of that, $600,000 came from GSK. Historically, the company has been a generous donor to AHA:
* GSK donations to AHA by year:
* $600,000 in ‘08-’09
* $940,353 in ‘07-’08
* $2.055 million in ‘06-’07
* Total: $3.6 million
Maybe this is just business as usual?
This reminds me of the support group for parents/children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, CHADD, was actually founded by Ciba-Geigy(now Novartis) the makers of the drug RItalin.
This may not be the exact fox in the hen house scenario, but is just as bad. A known authority for the recommendations of heart health, should be 100% impartial, and not be influenced by cash.