The Wall St. Journal blog covered the news that US Senator Grassley is focusing on NAMI state chapters, and how many have received immense pharmaceutical corporation money without adequately disclosing their source of wealth the public. Biggest recipient of drug company money: NAMI California.

Wall St. Journal Covers NAMI State Chapter Psychiatric Drug Money Donations

Date Published:

Apr 28, 2010 12:00 AM

Author: Katherine Hobson

Source: Wall St. Journal Blog

For original blog entry click here.

State chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness received several million dollars in contributions from pharma companies in a little less than five years, with big donations from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb, according to a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley.

Grassley has made a project out of probing the financial ties of drug makers to nonprofits and academics, and last fall requested that state NAMI chapters disclose their donations. That was on the heels of his finding that drug makers gave the national group almost $23 million between 2006 and 2008, as the New York Times reported. The national group now has an online database of funding sources.

The NYT described the organization as “hugely influential in many state capitols” for its lobbying efforts to keep states from putting any restrictions on the drugs that can be prescribed to patients covered under Medicaid and other government-funded programs. Grassley has been interested in any financial support that comes from the makers of such drugs.

The group’s state chapters – except for Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut and Hawaii – reported their own donations to Grassley, he wrote in a letter to NAMI’s executive director and president of the board of directors. (The executive director of NAMI says AL and CT did respond in time.)

According to the letter, the California chapter received $632,000 in contributions between January 2005 and October 2009, the most of any state. Ohio NAMI received $623,000 and New York NAMI $448,000. The top ten states received a total of $3.84 million.

Lilly, with $2.2 million in donations and Astra and Bristol-Myers with $1.6 million and $1.3 million respectively, were the big benefactors.

Grassley wants to know what the national organization is doing to help state groups disclose their funding sources and to be sure that money is being used properly. He’s also peeved about those missing state reports, asking if the national group “believe[s] that it is acceptable that these NAMI State Chapters failed to respond.”

“Please respond in detail,” he writes. Stay tuned.

Update: We talked with Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI, who as noted above says CT and AL did respond with information. We’ll update as we hear more. He also says the national group “certainly agrees with Sen. Grassley in terms of the need for transparency and accountability.” For many state affiliates, the contributions are a small portion of the annual budget, he says, though he can’t give an average percentage. NAMI will respond to the letter by Grassley’s May 10 target date, Fitzpatrick says.