Meeting Time, Ethical Issues in Psychiatry

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I am heading to the annual meeting of the Association of Healthcare Journalists, have been occupied with paying work for a change, and cannot do the usual detailed post I do here. In the meantime, it’s worth flagging some recent health news that patients might want to think about.

Ethical Issues in Psychiatry

Last week, I was proud to post Martha Roberts’ excellent post titled “Mental health medication: is it always A Bad Thing?” She made a persuasive argument for life-saving mental health medications. Too often, anti-psych medication zealots, especially when it comes to psych meds, go overboard in questioning the need for mental health meds. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Side Effects (2013) Poster

I’ll admit it is tempting, particularly when you see and recognize #badpharma in regards to clinical trials conduct and safety, psychiatrists’ shilling for the drug companies, and manipulation and release of incomplete data. We’ve seen a lot of this in psychiatry and perhaps because the whole field and medication world revolves around the mind, we find it especially repugnant.

Our antennas go up higher than say, when bad ethics are involved in say, pushing a blockbuster heart failure drug, rheumatoid arthritis biologic drug therapy, or an anti-rejection transplant medication. It’s far easier to relate to a problem with our moods.

A few weeks ago I saw the movie, Side Effects (spoiler alert so don’t look at the link if you plan to see the movie), which I reckon accurately reflects some of the more sinister sides of the pharmaceutical industry in marketing psych drugs and saving its hide. However you feel about the plot line, the psychiatrists in the movie, the pharma folks, and the legal teams, are reprehensible. It’s worth watching.

Then, yesterday, ProPublica released another Dollars for Docs report, implicating psychiatrists more than any other doctor group, spotlighting some who make more than $500K per year in payments from big pharma. People can look up their doctors on the ProPublica site; some may be astounded at the dollars big pharma spends on doctors. Maybe they will look elsewhere.

Surely, these stories are worrisome and things will only change with the public insisting regulators look at this and put policies in place to try to get a grip.

But is that tantamount to all psychiatrists being unethical, psych drugs being thrown at people willy-nilly by anyone you are likely to see, or your very own doctor most certainly being unacceptably on the till, I doubt it. I think we ought to tread very carefully.

What do you think is a reasonable follow-up to this news?

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One Response to Meeting Time, Ethical Issues in Psychiatry

  1. Catharine says:

    Although I am in the unfortunate position of being wedded to psych meds whether I like it or not, a little suspicion (or even cynicism) is not necessarily a bad thing. I agree — let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater — but let’s also make sure the bath water isn’t full of shit. Would love to read a more detailed post in the future. Enjoy the conference!

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