First the good news: The Physician Payment Sunshine Act is now law, signed by President Obama as part of the health care bill overhaul. Starting in 2012, drug and medical device companies must report all consulting, speaking and other payments to doctors and teaching hospitals in excess of $100 annually to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which will post the payments on a public website. This is an important first step toward making transparent the pervasive financial ties between doctors who are studying or promoting specific drugs and medical devices and the companies that manufacture these products.
Two essays published in separate periodicals this week raise troubling questions about the extent to which psychiatrists may be unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, and how this relationship may effect public trust in psychiatry. The upshot? The concern about corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption is palpable. Sigmund Freud (see photo) would not be pleased. Interestingly, one of the authors is Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
Is the new Journal of the American Medical Association a special issue on reform? It doesn’t stop with its demands for new publication standards. It’s also showcasing a rallying cry from National Institute of Mental Health Director Dr. Thomas Insel, who calls on his fellow psychiatrists to “clean up our act.”
Dr. Thomas Insel stops short of calling researchers corrupt or asking them to stop taking money from drug companies. But he highlights a “bias in prescribing practices” that favors brand names drugs over cheaper generics and non-drug treatments. And he says the situation must change with new standards for transparency and full disclosure of psychiatry’s collaborations with industry.