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Association News
Industry-Supported Symposia to Be Phased Out
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 8 page 4-4

As part of its commitment to eliminate even perceptions of conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry, the APA Board of Trustees voted last month to phase out industry-supported symposia (ISS) at APA annual meetings.

This annual meeting format has long been rigorously monitored for content bias—psychiatry residents do the monitoring and report any instances of industry bias during presentations; nonetheless, the Board felt that the ISS did not provide a clear separation between education and marketing.

These popular sessions come with meals paid for by the pharmaceutical firm that supports each ISS and with educational materials paid for by that company or one that it pays to organize the symposium.

In 2008, prior to congressional scrutiny and widespread media coverage of psychiatrists' relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, then APA President-elect Nada Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., appointed an ad hoc work group of the Board to examine APA's relationship with industry and recommend ways in which that relationship could be substantially reduced, while considering the financial consequences of severing many of these ties. Work group chair Jeffrey Geller, M.D., presented the group's report at last month's meeting.

The Board approved several of the work group's recommendations including the one to phase out ISS at all APA meetings and explore the elimination of meals provided by the companies at these symposia.

This year only 11 ISS were scheduled as of late March. In contrast, at the 2005 annual meeting there were 45 ISS, and last year there were 28. APA Medical Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., told the Board that while the reduction to APA revenues from phasing out the ISS will be significant," it is a public trust issue" and vital that the Association eliminate the appearance of overlap between marketing and education. He added that APA will quickly replace the ISS, whose speakers are often among the most well-known names in psychiatry, with high-quality courses and other types of annual meeting sessions that will cover many of the same topics and also feature the field's top researchers and clinicians.

Finally, the Board plans to instruct the appropriate APA component" to reevaluate all fellowship programs to clarify and update the goals and objectives of the existing fellowships to ensure that they are aligned with APA's current priorities." This came under the purview of the work group primarily because several of the fellowships are supported by a pharmaceutical company, though administered by APA. APA alone selects the fellowship winners.

The Board also reviewed a preliminary report of a work group chaired by former president Paul Appelbaum, M.D., tasked with reviewing the relationships between psychiatrists and medical industries. Several Board members are submitting suggested changes, and the revised report will then go to the APA Assembly before it is finalized. ▪

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