The increased concern within organized medicine and organized psychiatry
regarding financial conflicts of interest due to pharmaceutical company
involvement and the efforts to do something about the issue will benefit our
profession as well the general public in the long run. The recent coverage in
the media about these financial conflicts of interest is overdue, and it
especially relates to psychiatry. Use of psychiatric medication of certain
types and in certain populations has been particularly called into question
for some time.
As of July, the extensive financial involvement of psychiatry with the drug
companies, even when it should be disengaged such as in the areas of research
and professional education, started coming under the scrutiny of congressional
There are some good reasons that psychiatry should be looked on with
greater suspicion than other fields of medicine. There are the relative lack
of scientific objectivity and tests when it comes to diagnosis compared with
other fields of medicine and the greater difficulty in measuring treatment
outcomes. Also, there is the peculiar involvement of psychiatry in involuntary
treatment, which makes any conflict of interest regarding drug treatment
Whatever legitimate service is performed by some psychiatrists'
involvement with the pharmaceutical industry, drug company involvement in
organized psychiatry and psychiatric education is much more questionable.
An immediate step we should see happen, as APA members, is the elimination
of pharmaceutical ads from Psychiatric News. From my standpoint, this
is imperative and needs to be done by next year. I know the financial
dependence on and involvement with drug companies of organized psychiatry,
psychiatric publications, and psychiatric education have been so extensive
that it will not be easy to disengage, but I do think that for the APA dues we
pay (and even at the reduced dues I pay as a life member), we should expect at
a minimum that our professional society newspaper be free of any actual or
perceived drug company bias.