Psychiatrists are on alert.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is continuing his investigation into the professional links to big pharmaceutical companies.
In this next step of the ongoing investigation into conflict-of-interest compensation to psychiatrists, Sen. Grassley has sent a letter to the American Psychiatric Association, (APA), asking for an accounting of revenues collected from pharmaceutical companies beginning in 2003.
The association is the voice of establishment psychiatric medicine which sets the standards for treatment.
Specifically, the senator has found that some in the profession are not reporting their income from big pharmaceutical companies.
Grassley has accused Dr. Alan Schatzberg of Stanford University of failing to report to Stanford some $74,000 in payments from Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly.
The doctor also has a $6 million in stock interest in a company which seeks to commercialize a drug for depression.
In response, Stanford has issued a statement saying Dr. Schatzberg has reported the interest.
The university says it will “ensure that his research was not compromised by this financial stake.” Dr. Schatzberg has agreed not to participate in any research involving the drug, even though he is funded by the National Institutes of Health in a drug trial into acute psychotic depression.
Doctors are afraid that blocking these types of arrangements will provide less opportunity to help patients with severe illnesses.
Senator Grassley has already accused two Harvard-affiliated doctors, psychiatrist, Joseph Biederman, and Timothy Wilens, as well as Melissa DelBello at the University of Cincinnati of failing to report payments from pharmaceutical companies to their universities as is required.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that of its $62.5 million in 2006 revenues, pharmaceutical companies provided nearly one third.
About half of the money came from drug ads in psychiatric journals. The other half came from drug makers sponsoring of fellowships, conferences and symposiums at their annual meetings.
The APA reportedly netted about $3.7 million from pharmaceutical companies after expenses.
This past weekend the APA met in Chicago to discuss how to respond to the conflict-of-interest questions.
“With every new revelation, our credibility with patients has been damaged, and we have to protect that first and foremost,” Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, a former president of the association and now president of the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore, tells the New York Times.
“I think we need to review all arrangements between doctors and industry and be very clear about what constitutes a conflict of interest and what does not.”
The average compensation for a psychiatrist in 2007, was about $198,653, reports the Medical Group Management Association.
Giving a talk at a professional dinner can net a doctor another one to three thousand per event. Consulting can bring in tens of thousands of dollars.
In Vermont, for example, state officials reported that in 2007, 11 psychiatrists received an average of almost $57,000 for consulting with drug companies.
The New York Times reported last year that on average, a psychiatrist who was on the receiving end from drug makers, wrote three times as many prescriptions to children for drugs as those who received less or no money. #