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
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
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
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. ▪