Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Exposing the Relationship between Drug Companies and Psychiatrists

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Exposing the Relationship between Drug Companies and Psychiatrists

Article excerpt

Once a sign of progress for psychiatrists, the connection between pharmaceutical companies and leading psychiatrists is now cited as proof of corrupt influence. In the past three years, trust in psychiatry has diminished because of accusations that top academic psychiatrists neglected to disclose financial conflicts of interest.

These accusations have started investigations that have already had major effects for psychiatrists. As noted in the March 2010 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, investigators have been removed from National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.) grants, and restrictions enacted on psychiatrists' outside income. Many universities in the United States have enhanced their conflict-of-interest policies, and the National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.) has started an internal review system in order to find potential issues in the management of conflicts of interest. In addition, N.I.M.H. has enacted changes to minimize the possible bias in its funded studies.

One of the biggest effects of this issue has been to raise the question of the integrity of psychiatrists. Though some states require public disclosure of pharmaceutical expenses given to physicians, the only state that allows the results to be available in a way that allows comparisons across specialties is Vermont. In Vermont's breakdown between specialties, psychiatrists were given more money from pharmaceutical companies compared with all other medical specialists. Most likely, these companies are distributing money to the specialists to prescribe or promote their products. As well as state disclosures, some pharmaceutical companies have volunteered to post payments to physicians. The data from company and state registries fundamentally reflect payments for practicing physicians.

There is also the question of academic researchers' publications and lectures. In a recent study of all medical school department chairs, a reported 60 percent received personal income from companies, often a result of their membership of a scientific advisory board or as a consultant. Eighty percent of faculty members in clinical departments reported a departmental relationship with industry, in part from continuing medical education support. No evidence has been published, however, that departments of psychiatry or their chairs receive more or less funding from industries than their colleagues in other specialties. …

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