High profile and embarrassing conflict of interest news stories about doctors on the receiving end of drug industry money, has led to a purported industry-wide policy change for a professional organization of psychiatrists.
The board of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted to phase out industry-sponsored meetings and meals.
This May’s scheduled industry-sponsored annual meeting in San Francisco, where more than 38,000 member physicians are invited, will continue as scheduled and a spokesperson said it is possible that such events will still take place at the group’s annual meeting next year as well.
So when will the phase out occur?
The timetable still remains to be worked out, says an APA spokeswoman to Med Page Today.
"There is a perception that accepting meals provided by pharmaceutical companies may have a subtle influence on doctors’ prescribing habits,” said James H. Scully Jr. M.D. who is the organization’s CEO in a statement.
“Although we took great care to avoid biased reporting at all our symposia, we came to the conclusion that the only way to totally eliminate the risk is to have the symposia supported by the APA alone," said the APA's president, Nada L. Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked for a complete accounting of the APA income from pharmaceutical companies since 2003.
Exempted is money from advertising placed in professional journals.
Sen. Grassley’s probe has uncovered the ties between Dr. Fred Goodwin, who hosted “The Infinite Mind” radio program, Dr. Joseph Biederman of Harvard, and Dr. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University who had been on the receiving end of money from pharmaceutical companies and either under-reported the funds to their universities or in the case of Goodwin, failed to disclose to his audience or producer his ties to industry.
In 2006, Sen. Grassley found that the APA had received nearly of third of its revenue from the drug industry.
With a public increasingly skeptical of professional opinion encouraging drug use, the organization feels change is necessary.
“What was acceptable five years ago isn’t necessarily acceptable today,” says Dr. Scully. “Change is necessary, and the APA wants to stay at the forefront of a new and better way of doing things.”
Conflicts Over Conflicts of Interest
In another turnabout, the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) say that whistleblowers are invited to tell them about drug industry conflicting interests of doctors, but telling anyone else, including the media, is forbidden.
The rule came about as two Ph.D’s reported on a lead author who failed to report a relationship with a drug manufacturer. The two whistleblowers eventually went to the New York Times to tell their story which the editors of JAMA heavily criticized on their pages saying the disclosure compromised their ability to do a complete, fair and thorough investigation.
“A rush to judgment may spark heat and controversy, but rarely sheds light or advances medical discourse,” says JAMA in a March 20 editorial.
No word on what will befall whistleblowers if they violate this directive. #