Big Pharma won't escape from Sen. Charles Grassley's eagle eye yet. Rather than slipping into newly Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter's seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley made a deal to postpone his move until the next Congress launches in 2011, the New York Times reports. In the meantime, the ranking Republic on Judiciary will be Sen. Jeff Sessions--and Grassley will stay firmly fixed on the Finance Committee, the better to influence healthcare reform and follow through on his pharma-oversight initiatives.
Grassley has made it his business to delve into all sorts of pharma issues: DTC advertising, doc-payment disclosure, and so on and so on. Last week, when Grassley was widely believed to be stepping into Specter's Judiciary seat, pharma was buzzing with speculation that those issues would be forgotten. Or at the very least, pushed farther down on Finance's to-do list. But the Iowa senator is too involved in the healthcare-reform push to change horses now.
Grassley's latest? Funding for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a lobbying group. Last month, Grassley wrote for a breakdown of the organization's money sources, and according to Furious Seasons, he's now discovered that 56 percent of its $12 million to $13 million annual budget, on average, comes from pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps because of Grassley's activism, NAMI is now disclosing pharma (and other) contributions; for the first quarter of 2009, for example, the organization reported $1.2 million in donations from drugmakers, including $262,500 from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
No word on where Grassley's NAMI probe goes now--hearings, perhaps?--but in any case, it further extends his drive to expose financial ties among drugmakers, doctors, disease societies and academic researchers, particularly in psychiatry. And you can be sure there's more where that came from.