Two new articles from the New York Times confirm my earlier article about psychiatrists taking large amounts of money from drug companies, which tends to influence how they prescribe medicines. The first article documents how psychiatrists in Vermont received more money than any other medical profession. Each psychiatrist received an average of $45,692 in drug company
bribes payments. Does this influence how psychiatrists prescribe? You bet! As the Times said, “For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved.”
Another article, also in the Times, documents that the federal government is starting to look at these practices. The Senate had hearing where they quizzed drug company execs about their practices. My favorite moment in the hearings came when Senator Claire McCaskill was talking about the Senate barring senators from accepting meals from lobbyists. And there should be full disclosure of any gifts or payments to senators. Then she said, “And if it’s good for Congress, it’s good for the medical profession in terms of cleaning up all this lobbying — because that’s what it is.”
You know doctors are in ethical trouble when the closest comparison is the Senate!
Once again, how should we deal with this? First, write to or call your legislators, both state and federal, and ask them to pass legislation to bar the practice of doctors taking money from drug companies. Any payments much be fully and publicly disclosed, and should be limited to a token amount like $100 per year.
Second, ask any psychiatrist you see if they receive money from drug companies and if yes, ask them how much and from what companies. If they refuse to disclose this, consider another psychiatrist. Once you know which companies they took money from, then you can evaluate whether it seems to influence their prescribing practices.
There are many psychiatrists who don’t take money from drug companies, and we should favor these doctors.
Copyright 2007 The Psychology Lounge/TPL Productions
Dr. Andrew Gottlieb is a clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. His practice serves the greater Silicon Valley area, including the towns of San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, and San Mateo. Dr. Gottlieb specializes in treating anxiety, depression, relationship problems, OCD, and other difficulties using evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a modern no-drug therapy approach that is targeted, skill-based, and proven effective by many research studies. Visit his website at CambridgeTherapy.com or watch Dr. Gottlieb on YouTube. He can be reached by phone at (650) 324-2666 and email at: Dr. Gottlieb Email.