After a number of investigations into the under-disclosure of drug industry earnings by top psychiatry researchers, The New York Times reports that US Senator Charles Grassley is aiming at the mothership of American psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association.
Grassley is a Republican senator who has been pushing for transparency in the drug industry for some time and has particularly focused on drug payments to researchers and clinicians in recent months.
He’s been behind some recent high profile investigations which have indicated that some of America’s most influential psychiatrists have been receiving millions of dollars in undisclosed payments.
Grassley has recently focussed his attention on the APA itself, which, according to the NYT piece got about $20 million from the drug industry in 2006. These 2006 figures are the most recent, however, as the full details of the association’s funding are not made public.
The issue is not solely one about funding large organisations or the high flying opinion-leaders though.
Soft money is awash throughout the profession with drug company bonuses being routinely paid to individual psychiatrists who agree to talk on behalf of the company, while those that don’t take hard cash are likely to be taken out for expensive meals, given all expenses trips to plush conferences and given other barely-concealed incentives.
However, it is clear that this is not solely a problem with psychiatrists, as patient groups are often heavily funded by the drug industry, to the point where they’ve been described as being “perilously close to becoming extensions of pharmaceutical companies’ marketing departments”.