Senator Grassley tells TeenScreen Executive Director (& former head of NAMI) to disclose all TeenScreen pharma funding

Senator Grassley’s letter states, “Operating with transparency sends a message that there is nothing to hide. Accordingly, I would appreciate an accounting of industry funding that pharmaceutical, medical device companies, foundations established by these companies or the insurance industry have provided to the TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University (TeenScreen) (The term ‘industry funding’ means any transfer of value, including but not limited to grants, donations, and sponsorship for meetings or programs, etc.) This request covers the period of January 2006 to the present.”

United States Senate
Committee on Finance
Washington, D.C. 20510-6200

December 7, 2009

Via Electronic Transmission

Laurie Flynn
Executive Director
TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University
1775 Broadway, Suite 610
New York, NY 10019

Dear Ms. Flynn:

The United States Senate Committee on Finance (Committee) has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs and, accordingly, a responsibility to the more than 100 million Americans who receive health care coverage under these programs. As Ranking Member of the Committee, I have a duty to protect the health of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and safeguard taxpayer dollars authorized by Congress for these programs.

For the last three years, the Committee has been looking into various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, including consulting arrangements, and industry funding for Continuing Medical Education (CME). My inquiry was spurred, in part by press accounts documenting the lack of transparency in the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and nonprofit organizations. For instance, in April 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that industry representatives, including ten major drug
companies, formed a coalition to promote looser restrictions on off-label marketing. The coalition asked the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to speak in favor of this issue.

On October 6th of this year, I sent letters to all fifty state chapters of NAMI asking them to disclose income from pharmaceutical companies. In that letter, I explained that NAMI National receives almost two-thirds of its funding from the drug industry.  I learned recently that a few days after I sent those letters, one of the founders of NAMI and member of the NAMI National Board of Directors emailed his resignation,
stating that he was shocked at NAMI’s reliance on pharmaceutical industry funding. In particular he said: “This financial dependency presents a number of problems.”

Read entire letter: