Monday, 14 July 2008

Pharmaceutical Industry Relation to Psychiatry

A big story emerging in the United States at the moment is the request of Senator Charles Grassley to the American Psychiatric Association to reveal a breakdown of its sources of funding - The relationship between psychiatrists (indeed nearly all doctors) and pharmaceutical companies is persistently debated across the world. The relationship is not straightforward as it covers a multitude of different companies, doctors, drugs and regulations. The simplest argument runs as follows. If a doctor receives funding from a company that produces drug A, then the doctor may be more likely to prescribe drug A to a patient. If this were the case it would reduce the doctor's prescribing autonomy and is therefore a conflict of interest. This basic argument is then refined and adapted to various situations. The counterarguments run along the lines that the pharmaceutical industry have provided drugs which have saved lives and improved quality of life, have pushed forwards medical science and as a necessity must operate in a commercial environment where marketing is essential to survival. Of course, all of this is a gross oversimplification and this debate will no doubt continue indefinitely. Big stories like this always help to focus attention on this important issue and I for one have spent a bit more time thinking about this subject (which usually lingers at the very back of my mind) as a result.

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