Public health researchers from Boston have uncovered an interesting tidbit of information — well, interesting to anyone who has seen a psychiatrist or is thinking of doing so. It seems that a very significant number of these mental health experts — who can make decisions regarding drug treatments for patients — are tied to pharmaceutical companies. In other words, they have interests that extend beyond just the needs of their patients.
Now, I don’t want to get too harsh without looking at the evidence first. There is a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is an expertly written guide that is intended for use in the field of psychiatry. In fact, 170 psychiatrists worked on the 1994 edition.
This widely used manual is meant to help guide medical professionals in the treatment of mental disorders. Researchers found that 95 of the psychiatrists, or 56% of the contributors to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, had financial ties to drug companies either before or after it was published.
That is, they had at least one relationship with a pharmaceutical company and were mostly tied to the entity due to research money. That percentage was much higher — and in some cases it was 100% of the contributors — especially when the researchers boiled it down and looked specifically at severe illnesses such as schizophrenia.
The researchers used financial records and conflict-of- interest statements to piece their findings together, in just another attempt to show that the medical field — and doctors’ offices — aren’t so far removed from the multi- billion-dollar drug industry as we might have hoped.
Although the study couldn’t prove how much the psychiatrists were paid, or if the financial ties influenced the manual or not, the researchers still said it was “outrageous” that the psychiatric profession would allow such a far-reaching book to be published without disclosing any pharmaceutical involvement. (It is common practice for any study, or seemingly important piece of medical research, to “disclose” if the authors have had any involvement with drug companies, supplement makers, or anything else that is relevant to the topic of the study.)
You might not think that this is a big deal — but it is. If a line can be traced from one area to another, it is proof that your medical care is not just in the hands of doctors, but in the drug companies’ hands as well — and it’s the companies that pay the doctors for this endorsement privilege.
It also means that you may not get the most ideal drug, or certainly the cheapest option, to treat your condition, but instead the one designed by the drug company that has ties to your doctor. It also gives a doctor the incentive to prescribe a drug when perhaps you don’t even need a regimen of medications in the first place.
In any event, around 400,000 mental health employees, including psychiatrists and nurses, use the manual to diagnose their patients. More importantly for you, insurance companies use the manual to determine if they will cover certain illnesses.
It is relevant as well that these findings are in the psychiatric field, as we are in an age of contentious illnesses that may or may not exist; problems such as ADHD and social phobia, for example. And many health professionals believe that these conditions require prescribed drugs for treatment, which may or may not always be the ideal way to go.