July 13, 2008

Grassley Probes Psychiatrists Over Ties To Pharma


exclusiveThe investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, where Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican, into the ties between drugmakers and medicine is expanding. After targeting grants issued to academic psychiatrists, Grassley now wants the American Psychiatric Association to open its books for a look-see at pharma funding.

bribePsychiatrists, of course, prescribe antidepressants and antipsychotics, both of which have stirred controversy. And psychiatrists have frequently shown up at the top of lists of doctors receiving pharma money. This week, for instance, Vermont’s Attorney General released its annual report showing that, of the top 100 recipients, psychiatrists received the highest level of payments, and 11 psychiatrists received a total of about $626,000, or approximately 20 percent of the total value of payments. The average amount received by psychiatrists was nearly $57,000.

Not coincidentally, the Senate committee’s conflicts-of-interest probe into oversight of grants issued by drugmakers and the NIH has focused on three psychiatrists - Harvard University’s Joe Biederman, Stanford University’s Alan Schatzberg and the University of Cincinnati’s Melissa DelBello.

The following e-mail was sent to APA members

Date: 07/11/2008 11:07AM
Subject: Message from APA Leadership

Fellow Members of the APA:

The APA Office has just received a letter from Senator Grassley of Iowa, requesting a complete accounting of APA revenues, except those from advertising in our journals, from pharmaceutical companies, starting in 2003. We will, of course, provide this information, which had already been available to our members.

These monies have supported activities including symposia, program bags, buses, and exhibits at our annual meetings and research and leadership training for outstanding residents. Our compliance with the rules governing these revenues has earned us accolades from the accrediting agency.

We are not alone; recent public focus on relationships between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry is a challenge for the whole field of medicine. The APA fully endorses the concept of transparency in our relationships with pharma and other entities and has been in the forefront of the disclosure process. In March, 2008, long before this inquiry from Senator Grassley, your Board of Trustees empaneled a working group charged to review all APA pharmaceutical revenues, sort them into categories; and provide the Board with options for ending pharmaceutical support in each category and the implications for the activities they currently fund. We are proud of what we do.

We will continue to keep you informed about this and all matters of importance to members of the APA.

Nada Stotland, M.D., MPH
APA President

UPDATE: The New York Times now has a story about this in its Saturday paper.

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