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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Is The American Psychiatric Association Influenced By Drug Manufacturer Money?

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It
is common knowledge doctors receive all sorts of free gifts from drug
manufacturers
, including pens, paper, and coffee mugs, among many
other gifts. Since the gifts are so common place these days, it may
not seem like a big deal to have doctors accepting such gifts. The
drug industry will explain they are simply trying to help educate
doctors so that new and better medications are given to patients who
can benefit from them. It may surprise you to learn doctors
prescribe medications
more frequently for drugs they receive gifts for over other similar
medications.

The
real concern about drug manufacturers giving gifts to doctors who
prescribe medications is the potential for only prescribing
medications produced by the drug manufacturer giving gifts, even if
it is not the best drug for the patient. Due to this concern,
Senator Charles Grassley
initiated hearings into the financial ties between the pharmaceutical
industry and the American Psychiatric
Association
(APA).

In
2006 the APA has received over nearly one third of its operating
budget from the pharmaceutical industry. There is a real concern
drug
manufacturers
are influencing prescribing practices of
psychiatrists based upon the financial ties. Although there is no
direct evidence yet, and there probably will not be a smoking gun,
the appearance of improper influence is enough to cause significant
concerns and is not merely baseless speculation.

Harvard
pediatrician Joseph
Biederman
is not well know to most parents, but to his peers his
is very influential. He suggested Ritalin
may help approximately 10% of children deal with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),
and in 2004 11% of 11 year olds were on Ritalin. The real concern is
many drugs are not tested on children before they are prescribed, so
there could be numerous unforeseen complications. Senator Grassley
has particular concerns about Dr. Biederman not reporting $1.6
million dollars in drug
company
income.

Of
course the failure to properly disclose income from drug
manufacturers
does not, in and of itself, prove undue influence.
It does, however, give great concern to the role doctors play in our
daily lives. Are we sure our doctor is giving us a medication
because it will help with a specific disease process, or only because
he got a free coffee mug from Pfizer? How can we be sure our doctors
are looking our for out best interests, rather than Merck’s bottom
line?

There
is no way to know for certain, but with increased scrutiny of gifts
received by doctors from drug manufacturers, it may help everyone
feel a bit safer. Perhaps a bit of public shaming of doctors would
go a long way to clearing things up. There is currently a bill in
Congress mandating disclosure of any gifts
received by doctors
from manufacturers of drugs, medical devices
and supplies. This is certainly a good step forward.