By Ed Silverman
April 28th, 2010

The latest chapter in the saga involving the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, and the amount of money accepted from the pharmaceutical industry has millions being contributed to NAMI state chapters. And Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, who has been probing the relationship between patient groups and drugmakers and how this may influence the practice of medicine, wants to know what the national organization is doing to make the state chapters more transparent, and how the money is used.

You may recall that a majority of donations made to NAMI, a big advocacy group, have come from drugmakers in recent years. And the disclosure comes after protracted criticism of NAMI for coordinating lobbying efforts with drug makers and pushing legislation that also benefits the pharma industry. NAMI subsequently promised to accept less pharma funding (background). Until recently, NAMI refused for years to disclose specifics of its fund-raising. But according to Grassley, between 2006 and 2008, drugmakers contributed nearly $23 million to NAMI, or about three-quarters of its donations.

Now, in an April 26 letter to NAMI officials, he notes that state chapters are also big beneficiaries. California’s chapter received $632,000 last year (see here), while the Ohio chapter got $623,000 from drugmakers. Looked at another way, Lilly ponied up $2.2 million, AstraZeneca donated $1.6 million and Bristol-Myers Squibb gave $1.3 million. All three drugmakers market antipsychotics. The info was obtained by querying each state chapter, although Grassley is miffed that the Alabama, Arizona, Connecticutt and Hawaii chapters ignored him.