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Tighter restrictions on speaking and consulting mean doctors will be less up to date on new treatments, according to several current physician speakers.
Psychiatrists aren’t always among the highest-paid. In 2010, when Dollars for Docs first launched, endocrinologists represented 11 of the 43 top money-making speakers. From year to year, the in-demand specialists are largely a function of the market.
Drug companies have made $25.8 million in payments to Utah doctors since 2009 for research, consulting, travel and entertainment — a common practice, the scope of which is only now becoming clear and causing uneasiness in medicine.
But critics say psychiatrists are a particular concern because of their controversial role when the first waves of new antipsychotics hit the market.
AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly have paid billions in settlements to the federal government over allegations that they paid doctors to push these drugs for unapproved uses from children to seniors with dementia. One lawsuit alleged that a Florida psychiatrist switched patients from drug to drug based on his relationships with companies.
Texas psychiatrist Jain acknowledges the excesses of the past and said he does not excuse them. But he said he sees real value in the new brands because they give psychiatrists options if their patients are not responding to older drugs.
He said he has recently spoken on behalf of Forest’s antidepressant Viibryd, Merck’s antipsychotic Saphris, Lilly’s ADHD drug Strattera, Pfizer’s antipsychotic Geodon and its antidepressant Pristiq.
Having the financial support of drug companies does not lessen the value of this teaching, he said.
Jain’s tally in Dollars for Docs does not reflect his work with another group that is heavily sponsored by drugmakers.
Jain, top-paid speaker Draud and Maletic all serve on the advisory board and steering committee of the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress, which will hold its annual convention in Las Vegas in September and October. Maletic is the 2013 program chairman.
The convention receives financial support from several drug companies, and some of its presentations are sponsored by the firms, according to information on its website. Much like professional medical societies, the congress also collects fees for drug company ads on things attendees see at their conventions, from tote bags to hotel room keys.
The congress is owned by North American Center for Continuing Medical Education, LLC, a for-profit New Jersey company that provides continuing medical education courses. Health professionals must take such classes periodically to retain their licenses. Draud, Jain and Maletic also teach classes for the company.
In response to written questions, Randy P. Robbin, president of the company, said members of the steering committee have "demonstrated experience and expertise in mental health and commitment to providing the highest quality education possible."
The trio are paid for their work for the congress, but the money does not come from pharmaceutical sponsors, Robbin said. In continuing medical education courses, he said, drug companies don’t have a say in the educational content or speaker selection.
Jain said in an interview that his talks for the company are reviewed for bias before and after he speaks. "I cannot present anything at the Psych Congress that hasn’t been vetted repeatedly," he said. "Pharma is not able to influence anything that I do at the Psych Congress."
Scully, of the American Psychiatric Association, said he hopes all the drug company money doesn’t taint relationships between patients and their doctors.
"The public trust," he said, "is too important."
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