Unite Here, a labor union with 270,000 members, is attacking a surprising target, the American Heart Association. A report released by the group— entitled “Is the American Heart Association for sale?”– cites multiple examples of financial conflicts of interest involving prominent leaders of the organization.
Among the major accusations in the report:
- Robert Eckel, a former AHA president and co-author of the 2013 ACC/AHA cholesterol guidelines, received more than $14,000 in 2014 from Sanofi, which makes the PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent. Eckel also appeared before the FDA on behalf of the drug’s approval.
- Mark Creager, the current president of the AHA, received more than $30,000 over 2013 and 2014 combined from Novartis and AstraZeneca.
- Joseph Hill, the incoming editor-in-chief of Circulation, received more than $20,000 from industry in 2014.
The report highlights a quote from Rose Marie Robertson, Chief Science and Medical Officer of the AHA: “We are in the business of saving lives… We are not in the business of fundraising. The trust of the public is the most critical thing we have.”
In addition to the payments to individual AHA officials, the report highlights payments over $1 million to the AHA from industry, including, just in the 2013-2014 fiscal year:
- $3.3 million from Pfizer
- $1.15 million from Covidien
- $1.527 from Daiichi Sankyo
The report recommends that the AHA establish more rigorous safeguards “to shore up the public trust that is so essential to its success.”
I have invited the AHA and the individuals in this story to respond to the report.