The aim of the study was to investigate the co-operation between patient organizations and the drug industry in Finland prior to critical discussions on the topic. The data were gathered by a questionnaire survey of 85 patient organisations (response rate 65%, n = 55) and 20 drug firms (response rate 100%) in 2003, and by interviewing 13 organisations and surveying their web-pages and other documents in 2004. In the surveys, half of the patient organisations and 80% of the drug firms considered co-operation important. Most (71%) organisations reported financial support from the drug industry. Most organisations and drug firms had experienced problems. Common problems for organisations were too little or too unpredictable support from industry, and threats to independence and objectivity. Drug firms frequently mentioned unclear rules of co-operation. The patient organisation interviews exhibited similar themes and findings to those found in the surveys, revealing the complexity and importance of co-operation in organisation activities, and the variation between organisations. This case study from Finland showed that co-operation between patient organizations and the drug industry was common, many-sided and not usually transparent. The close connections between patient organizations and commercial companies, particularly drug firms, raise several policy issues and the need for action.
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