It’s no secret that one of the tough questions in American psychiatry—and at this meeting—is how psychiatrists can interact with the pharmaceutical industry without compromising their integrity or the interests of their patients. Over the weekend, the APA Assembly rejected several proposals that would have provided guidance on which relationships can be problematic and are best avoided. (Full disclosure: I chaired a workgroup appointed by the APA Board that wrote of one the documents that was voted down.) Instead, the Assembly adopted a vague statement that psychiatrists should be aware of their conflicts and manage them, without any guidance on how to do either.
I had two interactions this evening, however, that underscored just how important it is for American psychiatry to provide clearer guidance—and just why that may not be easy to do. On the street outside the Hilton, I was approached by someone who asked if I came to the meeting every year. When I said I did, he wanted to know why there were so many fewer sessions this year. “We used to be able to go to sessions from 7:30 in the morning to 10 at night.” I told him that APA had made a decision to phase out industry-supported symposia, both to protect the objectivity of the program and to reduce APA’s dependence on industry funding. He was puzzled by my response. “I come to get education. [He appeared to be referring to CME credits.] Whether it’s good education or bad education, it’s all education.
Good information or bad, so long as we get CME credits, that’s all that matters? As I was pondering the implications of that interaction, I headed over to one of the ubiquitous receptions, where a prominent member of the APA Assembly came over to talk. She wanted me to know, she said, that she’d thought the report of the workgroup I’d chaired—which she’d voted against—was really quite good. There was just one problem. It had recommended that psychiatrists not give talks when they don’t control the content of their presentations. When physicians give promotional talks for industry, they are handed a slide set created by the company. Our workgroup thought it was inappropriate for a physician to be dispatched to mouth the words written by the company that was signing the check. “I give a lot of those talks,” she told me. “They pay my mortgage. There’s no way that I can stop.” Then she smiled, as though she knew I would understand.
I don’t know, of course, how many psychiatrists will listen to just about anything so long as they get CME credits. Or how many are so dependent on drug company money that they can’t imagine living without it. But for this psychiatrist, it was a troubling evening in the Big Easy.
The APA Annual Meeting held in May provides hundreds of scientific sessions, new research poster sessions, prominent guest speakers, and opportunities to network and obtain continuing medical education credits.
Registration is open for the 165th Annual Meeting, May 5-9, 2012, in Philadelphia, PA. Go to www.psych.org/annualmeeting Visit this blog for meeting updates and special previews in the coming months.
Highlights from the 2011 Annual Meeting held in Honolulu, HI are posted on this blog.
Opinions expressed in posts on this blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the American Psychiatric Association.
About the American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psych.org, www.HealthyMinds.org, and www.PsychiatryOnline.org
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The information posted on the APA Annual Meeting blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with your treating physician.