Undoing Undue Industry Influence: Lessons from Psychiatry as Psychopharmacology

Lisa Cosgrove and Harold J. Bursztajn

Organizational Ethics: Healthcare, Business, and Policy
Volume 3, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2006

All of us count on our physicians to keep up to date on the development of new disorders and medications. But what if our physicians inadvertently relied on biased, inaccurate, or incomplete information? What if the researchers who provide expert testimony to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the validity of new, highly controversial disorders had financial ties to the drug companies that will directly profit from the creation of those disorders? What if negative side-effect profiles -- some potentially life-threatening -- were hidden from the FDA and from the public?

Unfortunately, these are not merely hypothetical situations.

. . .

The field of psychiatry, with other medical specialties, has made some progress in developing and revising conflict-of-interest policies. Developing more substantive policies requires, at the very least, attention to the issue of hidden ties and the inclusion of industry critics in the revision and implementation of these policies. Otherwise, it will not be possible to protect patients' welfare or the scientific integrity of the field.

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