The American Psychiatric Association, in its 240 page guide to its May annual meeting, “forgot” to mention the conflicts of interest of its own president Alan Schatzberg, MD. It had to print them on the newsletter circulated the third day of the meeting. Nor were names even alphabetized for easy information retrieval. (Schatzberg is financially linked to Eli Lilly, GSK, Merck, Pfizer, Forest, Takeda, Sanofi-Aventis and eight other companies.)
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.