Good Synopsis of the NAMI/Big Pharma situation by Evelyn Pringle

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is the latest member of the psycho-pharmaceutical cartel whose Big Pharma money trail is under investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee, with Iowa’s Republican Senator Chuck Grassley leading the charge.

In an April 6, 2009 letter, Grassley asked NAMI to disclose all funding from drug makers and industry created foundations.

The director of MindFreedom International, David Oaks, says Senator Grassley deserves thanks for doing what NAMI’s board of directors has refused to do.

“MindFreedom has pointed out for years that NAMI is one of the main large mental health industry organizations to refuse to disclose, even to its own members, the amount of money they receive from the pharmaceutical industry,” he reports.

After receiving Grassley’s letter, NAMI’s executive director, Michael Fitzpatrick, sent out an email to many NAMI supporters and stated in part: “NAMI does not engage in product promotion, endorsement, licensure or certification of any product, service or program owned by a corporate sponsor.”

On the popular website, Furious Seasons, Philip Dawdy was quick to point out the falsity of that claim. “Fitzpatrick has certainly engaged in product pimpery for J&J/Janssen,” he wrote in his daily blog. To substantiate his comment, Dawdy provided a link to previous blog written on December 21, 2006, in response to a press release put out by J&& promoting its Risperdal’s me-too drug, Invega, with Fitzpatrick touting the drug using his title of “Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

“We are pleased that innovative delivery technologies are being applied to new treatments for schizophrenia,” said Fitzpatrick in the press release.

“New and efficacious treatment options, like INVEGA, provide significant opportunities for more people with schizophrenia to manage their disease as they work with their treatment teams to live more fulfilling and productive lives,” he stated.

At the time, Dawdy wrote in his blog: “Now, what the hell is the ED of NAMI doing in a company press release much less mouthing the product name in all-caps?”

”When I last talked with Fitzpatrick about two years ago, he assured me that NAMI National had really cut back on its pharma habit. So this is just disappointing,” he noted. Judging from the yearly grant reports of Eli Lilly and Pfizer, Dawdy has a right to be not only disappointed but outraged.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, Pfizer’s report shows NAMI received $132,000 for a campaign that best describes the funding aim of Big Pharma called the Campaign for the Mind of America.

NAMI groups across the country collectively received an additional $13,500 in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, Pfizer gave NAMI another $225,000 to fund the Campaign for the Mind of America. Various NAMI groups combined also received over $63,000 in other grants. During the first quarter of 2008, Pfizer gave three NAMI groups grants totaling $5,567.

In 2008, Pfizer also gave NAMI groups $20,500 for annual conferences, $7,500 for Mental Health Awareness, and over $50,000 more in other grants.

Eli Lilly’s grant reports show Lilly is also funding the Campaign for the Mind of America, to the tune of close to a half million dollars a year. NAMI received grants for $450,000 from Lilly for this specific program in both 2007 and 2008.

In addition, Lilly provides extra funding to groups all over the US for a campaign called “Walk for the Mind of America.” In 2007, the gang’s walking money totaled $17,000 in the first quarter, $11,500 in the second and $13,000 combined for the third and fourth quarters.

For the year 2008, from first to last quarter, Lilly’s “Walk for the Mind” totals were: $11,500, $24,000, $12,500 and $2,000. Lilly’s 2008 report also shows a $350,000 grant for a program titled: In Our Own Voice.

In addition, the drug maker threw NAMI groups around the country over $90,000 to sponsor their annual conferences in 2007, and about double that amount for their annual meetings in 2008. The grant reports are filled with additional gifts to NAMI groups all over the US, too numerous to mention here.

Lilly is the most prolific funder of front groups obviously because it has the largest drug portfolio to peddle, with Zyprexa, Prozac, Cymbalta, and Symbyax, a combination of Prozac and Zyprexa, as well as the ADHD drug Strattera.

Pfizer markets Zoloft, the antipsychotic, Geodon, and Chantix, a smoking cessation drug. The company also markets Viagra, a big seller in part, likely due to the all the sexual side effects of psychiatric drugs.

The leaders of these “non-profit” drug pushing operations are also well compensated. In 2006, for a 35 hour work week, Michael Fitzpatrick, was paid a salary of $212,281 and another $10,090 in employee benefit contributions and deferred compensation plans, according to NAMI’s 2006 Tax Form 990

In her new book, Side Effects, Alison Bass reports the story of how the president of NAMI from 2002 to 2004, Jim McNulty, failed to disclose that he was being paid thousands of dollars from drug companies for promoting their products to NAMI members and others at various speaking engagements.

“In a particularly intriguing twist,” she writes on her website blog, “McNulty laundered this drug company money through a state chapter of NAMI.” Bass further explains:

“This is how the scheme worked, according to McNulty himself and others in the know. He would be paid thousands of dollars to speak about the benefits of various antidepressants — McNulty himself suffered from depression — and rather than pay him directly, companies such as Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft, and GlaxoSmithKline, which made Paxil, would give his speaking fees to the Rhode Island chapter of NAMI, which would then cut McNulty a check.”

Senator Grassley has his work cut out for him now that he’s zeroing in on Big Pharma front groups because there are several with drug money laundering operations every bit as flagrant as NAMI’s. He might want to check out Mental Health America next, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association.

The group’s 2002 tax returns show the CEO and President, Michael Faenza, received compensation of $306,727, and another $35,275 in contributions to employee benefit plans and deferred compensation that year, for a 35 hour work week.

This operation has a Campaign for America’s Mental Health. Pfizer’s 2008 report lists a one grant for $200,000 and another for $300,000 to fund it. In light of the psycho-pharmaceutical cartel’s push for Congress to pass the Mother’s Act to set the stage for the screening of pregnant women for a long list of “anxiety” and “mood” disorders, the most worrisome gift to Mental Health America is Pfizer’s donation of $20,000 to a Georgia group for: Project Healthy Moms: Education for Prevention/Treatment for Perinatal Depression Disorders, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Among the largest of countless donations from Lilly in 2008, Mental Health America received one grant worth $600,000 in the second quarter.

The group’s 2006 annual report shows it received over $1 million each from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lilly and Wyeth. Janssen and Pfizer gave between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and AstraZeneca and Forest Labs donated between $100,000 and $499,000. GlaxoSmithKline gave between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2006.

Evelyn Pringle

(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Scoop Independent News)

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

10 Responses

  1. Thanks for all your interesting information. There’s so much on this site, I’ve not read as much as I’d like yet. I do think that putting the possible bias of some organisations under scrutiny is work that is very commendable, and I also like your quotes for the day. 🙂


  2. Gianna,

    What to do with NAMI?

    Well, Grassley’s given Michael Fitzpatrick until April 27th to show the Senate Finance Committee how much money they’re raking in from Pharma….

    It’ll be interesting to see what they find….

    The problem with some of this is that NAMI has a history of crime when it comes to their money….A history of embezzelment for instance….

    Lots of money problems in the past – lots of lawbreaking going on with NAMI – Poke around this site, and take a look –

    “America’s voice on mental illness.”

    Well, NAMI got that part right….
    No other organization has done more to keep Americans “mentally ill” than NAMI!!!

    Seems to me, that at the very least, NAMI should lose its ‘non-profit’ status, and at best – which remains my hope – a slush fund is found, and people start going to jail!!!!

    What to do with NAMI.



  3. This was very informative for me. While I had always suspected there was something wrong with NAMI, I didn’t have the facts. All I knew was that years ago when I was doing online bipolar research, I was always so stunned that they were so pro-pharmaceutical without any suggestion that drugs don’t work for everyone and there are some terrible side effects.

    And, at the same time I remember feeling the same way about DBSA. I vaguely remember reading the results of a survey suggesting that a tremendously high percentage of their members had their “illness under control” with medication (or something like that).

    In both bases, I wondered how it could be that so many people have such great difficulties with treatment…except for the members of NAMI and DBSA.



  4. Darby

    I’m really pleased that Grassley has demanded that NAMI disclose its contributions from pharmaceutical companies. And as Evelyn Pringle points out, one hopes Grassley would ask the same of MHA. But why stop there? There are any number of “mental health advocacy” orgaanizations inside and outside the Beltway that quietly take drug company money while supporting a strictly biomendical model of “mental illness,” and these groups have a substantial impact on federal law and policy. I’m thinking of compiling a long list and sending it to Grassley’s office….


  5. Gianna,

    How is it that the drugmakers have lost criminal cases for illegal marketing, and yet the country’s biggest “marketer” – the front-group, NAMI continues to carry out their marketing campaigns?….

    Makes little sense to me.

    When I say I want to see some people go to jail – including the management with NAMI, I’m not using figurative language, I mean it – literally.

    They’re breaking the law. They keep lobbying Capitol Hill for “off label” use of these drugs by the state Medicare programs….They’re the ones behind making sure kids are “screened”, they are part of an illegal cartel.

    NAMI is causing injury and death – by not revealing the dangers of these drugs…..That’s criminal activity.

    As you’ve come to know….I’m a pretty “mainstream guy”….a “family man”, in fact, on the conservative-side of (at least some issues) the political spectrum….

    This is an issue where I suppose I’m pretty “radical”.

    Because NAMI is breakin’ the law!!!
    That’s why.

    A note to any NAMI (eavesdroppers)readers?
    Dont’ like these accusations?

    Sue me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’ll slip a copy of the Constitution in my jacket pocket, and meet your butt in court….and, counter-sue you, and take the money from the suit to start a non-profit group!!!

    People with “mental illness” could use a safe place to get well – far away from you NAMI folks!!!!!!!!!!!!



  6. typo

    states’ medicaid progams – not medicare
    (although, there is illegal activity in medicare as well)

    with more likely down the pike – as the ‘baby-boom generation’ begins to hit retirement age….



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