The Wall Street Journal‘s Shirley Wang looked beyond the American Psychiatric Association’s new conflict of interest guidelines to explore what the APA’s loosening of ties with major pharmaceutical manufacturers meant for their business model and future. The APA has lost 10 percent of its revenue – about $7.5 million – over the past year as pharma is spending less on advertising in their journals and sponsored symposia have been phased out of the APA annual meeting. That last move, Wang found, cost the organization about $2 million.
In an interesting twist, Wang says that while some of the decline in pharma advertising can be attributed to the recession and APA’s attention to COI, some of it comes “because the industry faces its own pressures to avoid potential conflicts of interest.” Overall, pharma’s ad spending in health care publications has slipped from $865 million in 2005 to $626 million in 2009.
Reactions to these tightening regulations and budgets among APA membership has been mixed, as Wang illustrates:
At the annual conference in 2008 in Washington, D.C., Dr. Scully recalled meeting a group of young residents and medical students at the bottom of an escalator who wanted to “express their outrage” at the industry influence at the meeting. At the top of the escalator ride, he encountered another group of doctors upset that there weren’t enough seats in the industry-sponsored symposia. “A number of members liked those [symposia] and they liked that they got fed,” said Dr. Scully.
In an accompanying blog post, Wang writes that the APA hopes its new guidelines will increase transparency, decrease conflict and still maintain a good, cooperative relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.