INdiana Systemic Thinking

January 6, 2008

APA Elections: Big Pharma’s Candidate

This should scare everyone whether you see a psychiatrist or not.  The practice of “paying” doctors with the unspoken agreement they will prescribe more of a company’s drug is prevalent in all areas of medicine.  Today, Dr. Daniel Carlot, a psychiatrist campaigning against such practices, brings to light ties one of the candidates for the American Psychiatric Association’s presidency has with Big Pharma.

In one corner, we have Donna Norris, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has been active in APA governance for 25 years. She is currently the secretary-treasurer of the APA, chair of the Ethics Appeals Board, and a past speaker of the APA Assembly. More to the point, she is concerned about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on our profession. She chairs a special task force in charge of screening all potential members of the DSM-5 committee for commercial conflicts of interest. On a more personal note, she receives no financial compensation from drug companies, depending on her private practice for all of her income.

By contrast, Alan Schatzberg, M.D., has no APA governance experience, although he once served as vice president of the Northern California Psychiatric Society. Even more troubling, he was involved in what many consider an ethical breach in 2002, when he wrote an article endorsing mifepristone for psychotic depression without disclosing the full extent of his financial involvement in Corcept, the company that has tried to develop the drug for this purpose. At that time he owned 3 million shares; the current value of these shares is about $12 million. Currently, Schatzberg is the editor-in-chief of a journal entitled the “International Journal of Sleep and Wakefulness” which is funded wholly by Cephalon, a pharmaceutical company that sells Provigil. The purpose of this pseudo-journal appears to be to convince readers that sleepiness is a huge public health problem and that Provigil is the mainstay of treatment.

[Blogmeister Note:  DSM-5, referred to above, stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.  Currently under development, it is the “Bible” of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.]

Everyone should be aware of Pharma’s practices in medical treatment.  The Blogmeister would even go so far as to encourage you to ask your physician if they have received ANYTHING from the company who makes the drug you are prescribed (they ethically have to tell you).  If so, you could be prescribed medication that has less to do with your physical condition, than how much they are compensating your physician.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Blogmeister barely gets paid by insurance companies and patients, let alone Big Pharma.

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