American Psychiatric Association Phasing Out Industry-Supported Symposia, Meals

In an effort to increase industry transparency and amid media reports, investigations, and legal actions surrounding medical and <"">pharmaceutical industry ties, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has joined the growing number of entities seeking distance from conflict-of-interest issues. The Association just issued a release stating that its Board of Trustees voted this month to not only phase out industry-supported symposia, but to phase out industry-supplied meals at its annual meetings, as well.

“Although we took great care to avoid biased reporting at all our symposia, we came to the conclusion that the only way to totally eliminate the risk is to have the symposia supported by the APA alone,” said Nada L. Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., president of the APA. The Association explained that, “symposia at major medical meetings that supply doctors with continuing medical education credits are sometimes funded by pharmaceutical companies, a practice that has invited a concern that the sessions may be biased in favor of the sponsoring company’s medications.”

Regarding the discontinuation of industry-supplied meals, James H. Scully Jr., M.D., the APA’s Medical Director and CEO said, “There is a perception that accepting meals provided by pharmaceutical companies may have a subtle influence on doctors’ prescribing habits. While industry-funded meals used to be normal operating procedure at medical meetings, a sea change is currently underway in how we manage industry relationships.” Dr. Scully added, “What was acceptable five years ago isn’t necessarily acceptable today. Change is necessary, and the APA wants to stay at the forefront of a new and better way of doing things.”

Most recently, the state of Massachusetts adopted what are considered by many to be the most comprehensive rules governing gifts, disclosure fees, and other perks normally bestowed upon doctors by drug and medical device makers. According to a Boston Globe article earlier this month, the new Massachusetts rules ban pharmaceutical and medical device companies from providing gifts to physicians, limit when companies can pay for doctors’ meals, and require companies to publicly disclose payments to doctors over $50 for certain types of consulting and speaking engagements. The regulations take effect July 1, 2009, with the first public reporting by companies due July 1, 2010. The Boston Globe noted that the information will be posted on the Public Health Department Website and will be searchable by company and healthcare provider.

And, in a well-publicized conflict of interest case, a prominent Harvard psychiatrist promised to deliver positive results to major drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) before the start of some clinical trials for Risperdal (Risperidone), an atypical antipsychotic medication. Among other things, according to a prior Wall Street Journal piece, it reported that an investigation by Senator Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) found that from 2000 through 2007, Biederman received $1.6 million from J&J, but only a fraction of that was reported to Harvard. Earlier this year, Biederman agreed to step down from a number of industry-funded clinical trials.

Earlier this year we reported that effective January 1, 2009, some drug manufacturers stopped producing and distributing those free marketing giveaways that show how inappropriately Big Pharma and medicine mix. In 2004, the last year for which such data is available, Industry spent over $57 billion on marketing—typically for physician outreach, according to a prior report by—which noted that according to the journal PLoS Medicine, that money was almost twice as much as what was spent on new treatment research and development.

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