Letters to the Editor
PhRMA's New Rules
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 20 page 26-26

The new Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Code on Interactions with Health Care Providers, as described in a July press release, highlights the new restriction on drug reps' providing restaurant meals without a speaker who is a health care professional (interestingly, a practice that doesn't even occur in my area), but there is no restriction on restaurant meals at programs that provide speakers who are health care professionals.

Why does PhRMA make this distinction? PhRMA is trying to appear as if it cares about what it would call "the appearance of conflict of interest" without actually doing anything about real conflict of interest.

I feel that we in psychiatry, and especially APA, should lead the way in this area—not just follow the guidelines put out by PhRMA.

I would like APA to recommend that psychiatrists go a step further. To avoid a conflict of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest, psychiatrists would agree to not accept free food at either drug-rep presentations or speaker programs. So, no free promotional items, no free food. This policy, of course, does not prohibit attendance at these programs, but it may ensure a more sober assessment of their content.

Just one other point. Could someone explain to me why free food and alcohol are provided at speaker programs? Can doctors not afford their own food? Is this the only way that drug companies can get doctors to show up? What does this say about the quality of the programs? What does this say about doctors? Perhaps the questionable practice of doctors being paid by drug companies to talk to doctors will end if nobody shows up willing to pay the bill.

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