The debate within the medical profession over “conflicts of interest” (COIs) has often been shrill, and sometimes seems to be based on misunderstandings or myths about what COIs entail. In this psychiatrist’s view, it is helpful to step back from confident proclamations, acknowledge that the issues involved are complex, and aspire to some semblance of humility. Nobody has cornered the market on “the right way” to deal with COI in the realms of medical research, publication, and education.1 At the same time, as Alan Stone, MD, has noted (personal communication, August 27, 2009), ethical considerations lie at the heart of any debate on COI—in particular, the ancient dictum, “Do no harm.” Indeed, ethicist James M. DuBois has pointed out a direct connection between some types of COI and harm to the general public: “Mental health consumers are at risk when studies that involve questionable scientific and publication practices are translated into therapeutic practice.”1(p205)
Ronald W. Pies, MD
You have read the blogs and seen the placards a dozen times: doctors prescribe too many “drugs” for too many patients. Psychiatrists, in particular, are popular targets of politically motivated language that seeks to conflate the words “medication” and “drug”—thereby tapping into the public’s understandable fears concerning “drug abuse” and its need to carry out a “War on Drugs.”
What safeguards does Psychiatric Times build into its review policies to avoid conflicts of interest (COIs)? Do these policies apply to the “supplements” sometimes mailed out with the regular publication?
Mr A is a 73-year-old resident of a nursing home, where the irate aides describe him as “a liar and a troublemaker.” Mr A’s “stories” were regarded by the staff as deliberate mischief on his part.
In a highly charged environment in which reports of potential conflicts of interest between physicians and pharmaceutical companies dominate the headlines almost daily, we want to point out that the supplements that were mailed with this month’s issue of Psychiatric Times were based on meetings funded by drug companies. The supplement on treatment-resistant depression, which was sponsored by Lilly USA,includes an article that focuses on the company’s drug Symbyax.
What exactly is a “mental disorder”? For that matter, what criteria should determine whether any condition is a “disease” or a “disorder”?
Regular readers of Psychiatric Times know that we have been engaged in a comprehensive review of our “conflict of interest” (COI) and disclosure policies, which now include posted disclosure statements from all our editorial board members. So far as we are aware, Psychiatric Times is the only major psychiatric journal to require this of its editorial board, as well as of our regular writers.
My friend Paul Genova’s protean life is not easy to wrap in the winding sheet of an obituary. Paul—who died on December 13th of complications from multiple myeloma—was a man of many talents and sensibilities.
Suppose your new patient, Mr. Jones, tells you he is feeling “really down.” He meets all DSMIV symptomatic and duration criteria for a major depressive episode (MDE) after having lost his wife to cancer 2 weeks ago. Should you diagnose major depressive disorder?
A 52-year-old female college professor was referred to a psychiatrist by a nurse practitioner at the college health clinic. The referring diagnosis was “adjustment disorder with depressed mood versus atypical depression with somatization; rule out fibromyalgia.”