Shirley Wang posts on her Wall Street Journal Health Blog an entry about the American Psychiatric Association’s new, just released, code for working with the pharmaceutical industry, What’s Behind The New APA Conflict of Interest Code? The title of this post is actually misleading, how can it be a conflict of interest code if the APA is working with the pharmaceutical industry? A more apt heading would perhaps be, What’s Behind The New APA Mutuality of Interest Code?!
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the guidelines was the organization’s purpose in putting them out — not to eliminate a relationship with Big Pharma, but rather to develop a “collaborative relationship” with industry, APA immediate past president Alan Schatzberg, who convened the task force to develop the guidelines, tells the Health Blog. “It really is not in anyone’s best interest to shut out an industry voice.”
The most pressing question is whether this collaborative effort between the APA and Big Pharma is ever in the patient’s best interest? From much of the statistical data available on patient health, and the climbing mental illness rate in the USA, I would dare say that this collaborative venture between the APA and Big Pharma is not in the patient’s best interests at all.
Schatzberg himself has been investigated by a US Senate Committee under Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa for the under reporting of his own financial links with the pharmaceutical industry.
James Scully, CEO of the APA, agrees [with Alan Schatzberg]. “We want a good relationship with the pharmaceutical industry,” he tells the Health Blog. “They have a role to play in developing new drugs.” The APA cares less about whether doctors accept pens from drug sales reps than about larger issues, Scully says. “What we wanted to [be] clear about is that our educational programs were free of bias.”
When people connected to the pharmaceutical companies have helped pen much of the information in the APA’s educational programs, I don’t see how such programs can be free of bias. This is, at base, about greed and profit. Psychiatrists doing research, and pitches for drug companies, grow richer, while the health and well being of the patients prescribed their pharmaceutical products deteriorates. Make no mistake about it, the best product to use is not necessarily the product with the best write up by the hacks of the industry that makes that product.