A “patient-industry complex”? Investigating the financial dependency of UK patient organisations on drug company funding

Piotr Ozieranski, Pitter Janos, Emily Rickard, Shai Mulinari, Marcell Csanadi

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We examined the minimum extent of dependency of UK patient organisations on pharmaceutical industry funding using drug company disclosure reports and patient organisation financial accounts from 2012 to 2016. We used linear regression to explain the overall share of industry funding (‘general dependency’) and top donor funding (‘company-specific dependency’) in organisations’ income. Predictors included patient organisations’ goal; having members and volunteers; geographical scope of activity; headquarter location; expenditure/income ratio; and disease area. The prevalent low levels of general dependency (IQR, 0.1%–6.0%) and company-specific dependency (IQR, 0.1%–4.3%) made a widespread capture of patient organisations unlikely, though only if one excludes the possibility of significant payment under-reporting. However, organisations with considerably higher dependency than others might be more prone to co-optation by industry. Of the 398 organisations, 18 (4.5%) and 8 (2.0%) had general and company-specific financial dependency over 50%, respectively. However, the shares of outliers exceeding the third quartile plus 1.5 times IQR were 51 (12.8%) and 56 (14.1%) for each dependency type. Certain characteristics including activity profile (advocacy) or indicating limited access to resources (remote location) made organisations vulnerable to developing financial dependency. Future research should examine both financial and non-financial links between the two sides and their impact on patient organisations’ activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-210
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan 23

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • conflicts of interest
  • financial dependency
  • patient organisations
  • pharmaceutical industry
  • transparency


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