Soft money in psychiatry muddies manuals, airwaves

Mental health blog Furious Seasons has just alerted me to some recent revelations about conflicts of interest in psychiatry. More than half of the new committee members in charge of the next edition of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic ‘bible’, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), have ties to the drug industry.

Furthermore, an article for Slate reveals that a supposedly ‘independent’ NPR national radio show on the safety of antidepressants had three guests, a host and the production company, all of whom received money from drug companies.

While the financial interests of the DSM committee must be declared, drug company links were not revealed in relation to the radio programme and the production company seem to be being evasive about discussing the situation.

Apparently, the committee for the new DSM (the DSM-V) largely parallels the situation with the previous version, where over half of the members had drug company ties.

Because of the way the US health system woks, US health insurers tend only to pay for treatments when a specific diagnosis has been made, so it is in the drug companies’ interest to influence the classification of mental illnesses to make prescribing more likely.

However, there are rumours that the insurance industry and getting rather fed up of having to pay out on potentially drug company influenced diagnoses, and are considering funding research of their own into the validity of diagnoses to counter this trend.

The two news items mentioned above seem to be the work of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest that campaigns for transparency in science education and policy.

At the end of the Slate article, the organisation note that they have a list of leading scientists who do not have links to industry. Journalists are welcome to contact them if they want a source free of potential biases.

Link to Slate article ‘Stealth Marketers’.
Link to CSPI news item on DSM-V committee.

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