American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a national, voluntary, non-profit health organization dedicated to reducing death and disability from heart disease and stroke. The organization has a national center located in Dallas, Texas and 12 affiliate offices that cover most of the United States and Puerto Rico.
AHA was founded in 1924 by six cardiologists to address what they perceived as tremendous public ignorance about heart disease. AHA was originally founded to facilitate sharing research findings with physicians and promote further study of heart disease. The AHA "went public" in late 1948 during a network radio contest, "The Walking Man," on the "Truth or Consequences" program hosted by Ralph Edwards. Millions of Americans sent contributions to the AHA along with guesses on the walking man's identity. The effort netted $1.75 million before Jack Benny was identified as the "Walking Man." 
The AHA has come under fire at times for endorsement of drugs and products, and its controversial partnerships.
In 2000, AHA recommended that a clot-dissolving drug produced by Genentech, Inc., called alteplase (tPA), be used to treat strokes and even formulated guidelines for physicians to use the drug. Until this time, AHA had been guarded in its recommendation of thrombolytic drugs, but it suddenly came out in full favor of tPA. Skeptics believed that the evidence supporting use of tPA for strokes was too thin, as it was based on a single study. A November 2000 article revealed that, according to the organization's 1999 annual report, AHA had received $1 million or more from some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hoechst Marion Roussel, Novartis, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, SmithKline Beecham -- and Genentech. Following exposure of AHA's relationshing with Genentech, AHA withdrew its statement that alteplase saves lives.
Hill & Knowlton/Tobacco connection
In January 2004, AHA announced that it had hired the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, a company with a long history of working closely with the tobacco industry, to launch AHA's education and awareness campaign called "Go Red for Women." AHA partnered with the Rite Aid drug store chain to promote its campaign. Rite Aid has a long history of selling and promoting cigarettes, a major cause of heart disease in women. Rite Aid continues to sell cigarettes. Partering with AHA allows Rite Aid to claim that it was "taking a stand against heart disease in women" and place large red posters touting AHA's "healthy heart" campaign in its stores immediately next to the cigarette displays, allowing Rite Aid to promote both cigarettes and health simultaneously. (Rite Aid's embarrassing displays can be seen at http://www.rawbw.com/~jpk/stand/Pictures.html). The move highlighted Rite Aid's corporate hypocrisy, and embarrassed AHA, which continues this partnership in 2007. While AHA no longer lists Rite Aid as a corporate sponsor of the Go Red for Women campaign on its web site, the partnership continues. Rite Aid raises funds for AHA during the campaign, which may be why AHA continues the partnership, but in a low-key fashion.
In January 2008, the New York Times reported: 
- After a study last week showed Vytorin, an expensive combination of two drugs for cholesterol, worked no better than cheap Zocor alone in reducing artery plaque that can lead to heart attacks, the American Heart Association came to the drug’s defense.
- In a statement issued on Jan. 15, the day after the report's release, the heart association said the study was too limited to draw conclusions about Vytorin’s ability to reduce heart attacks or deaths compared to Zocor alone. The group advised patients not to abruptly stop taking it without consulting their doctors.
- What the association did not note in its statement, however, was that the group receives nearly $2 million a year from Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, the joint venture that markets Vytorin.
American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231
- Stephanie Saul, "Heart Group Backs Drug Made by Ally," New York Times, January 24, 2008.
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