The U.S. public has long relied on the American Heart Association’s recommendations for how to prevent heart attack and stroke. Given the AHA’s influence, we believe the organization should avoid financial ties to corporations with commercial interests in cardiovascular health. However, the AHA and its leadership accept large sums of money from individuals and corporations, including those in the pharmaceutical industry that have a financial interest in public-health recommendations. Here are a few select examples:
- Dr. Robert Eckel, former AHA president and co-author of certain cholesterol-related AHA guidelines, received nearly $33K in industry payments in 2014. Over $14K came from drug maker Sanofi Aventis. Experts say that company’s new cholesterol-lowering drug, Praluent, and others like it could cost U.S. payers and patients more than $100 billion per year.
- Dr. Mark Creager, the current AHA president, received over $30,000 in 2013 and 2014 combined from pharmaceutical companies Novartis and AstraZeneca.
- The AHA received over $15 million from pharmaceutical, medical device, and health insurance companies in the 2013-14 fiscal year, including nearly $3.3 million from Pfizer.
The AHA’s guidelines influence how doctors across the country advise their patients. In the process, the guidelines affect how billions of dollars will be spent. Shouldn’t these recommendations be free of industry influence?
The American Heart Association should take the following steps to shore up the public trust that is so essential to its success:
- Prohibit directors, guideline authors, or other AHA leaders from accepting payments from any companies in the pharmaceutical, health insurance, food service, or food manufacturing industries.
- Preclude directors and other leadership positions from being held by representatives of any company in the pharmaceutical, health insurance, food service, or food manufacturing industries.
- Convene a panel of independent experts who do not receive income from these industries to review the 2013 ACC/AHA cholesterol guideline and risk calculator.
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Today we walk for our loved ones and their right to unbiased medical advice. @American_Heart stop taking drug-company money! #HeartWalk
Tweet: Tell the @American_Heart to stop taking drug-company money. Because we deserve unbiased medical advice! http://bit.ly/1JVg5hd #HeartWalk
If you are a current or former employee, representative, or volunteer of the American Heart Association who has concerns about the charity’s financial relationships, please consider confidentially providing any potentially relevant information by sending us an email. Your input could help ensure that the AHA is as transparent and effective as it can be.