Why Disclosure Policies Don’t Discourage Drug Salesmen


From The Chronicle: The practice of pharmaceutical industry payments to academic researchers to help promote their drugs remains widespread. Requiring scientists to disclose their ties to drug companies is not very effective in addressing the issue.

“Whatever else his critics may say of Stephen M. Stahl, the adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego does not appear guilty of a failure to disclose.

Earlier this year, Mr. Stahl led a group of distinguished colleagues in writing new rationales for psychiatrists to boost their offerings of drugs to depressed patients. To that document Dr. Stahl appended an encyclopedic list of industry ties.

The article, published in February in CNS Spectrums, encourages the diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment of ‘mixed depression,’ and it lists 26 different drug companies for which Dr. Stahl serves as a consultant, 24 companies that have given him research grants, six companies for which he serves as a public speaker, and one for which he serves on the board.

The case was highlighted last month at an academic conference by Lisa Cosgrove, a professor of counseling and school psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Ms. Cosgrove didn’t name the authors in her presentation, saying she was less interested in pursuing any particular individual and more concerned about highlighting a problem she sees as still widespread despite persistent efforts to tackle it.

Universities, in response to years of revelations and lawsuits about companies paying scientists to help promote their products through scientifically dubious research presentations, have been enacting tougher policies governing financial conflicts and disclosures. Federal agencies and Congress have done the same. And yet, as Dr. Stahl’s case suggests, it’s clearly not enough, Ms. Cosgrove said.

…’Transparency is an insufficient solution to the problem of the corruption of the evidence base because it can’t guard against implicit bias, and may even be dangerous,’ she said. That danger, she said, is the possibility of making the problem of bias appear solved when it has merely changed forms.”

Article →­ (Paywalled)

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