Thus reads the tabloid headlines.
Okay. Okay. Not quite.
Wall Street Journal blog actually states:
The Boston Globe got wind of the study, which found that among 20 authors of the guidelines for treatment of depression, dipolar disorder and schizophrenia, 18 had at least one financial tie to a drug maker, and 12 had ties in at least three categories, such as consulting, research grants, speaking fees or stock ownership.
It still sounds like an expose on the sinister Big Pharma Conspiracy.
Is this really worrying? Is it even surprising?
These authors are leaders in the field, “key opinion leaders” (KOLs). They are usually well published, respected and established doctors of prominence. Due to their standing, they sought after by Pharma, who ask them to speak at meetings, offer advice, conduct clinical research etc.- and of course their labour is recompensed. I’d actually turn this allegation around – if the none of the doctors had not at some point received pharmaceutical funding, one might question if they really are the calibre of doctors to be writing national guidelines.
This is not a part of the Big Pharma Conspiracy. The doctors do not appear to be in the pocket of one single company. One of the doctors announced interests in five major companies: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmith Kline, and Pfizer. I doubt all five have the same interests in what treatment(s) should be recommended by the guideline.
The Globe even makes note that a central recommendations from the guidelines were not directly beneficial to Big Pharma – lithium, a cheap generic, remains the gold standard treatment, and talk therapy has an important role in successful treatment.
The financial ties of KOL were also not a secret. They were found through searching public databases.
Expecting doctors to never ever engage with the pharmaceutical industry is ridiculous, and nothing is to be gained by punishing those who do in a responsible manner. As long as relationships remain healthy, and conflicts are declared where applicable, it should be a case of remaining alert but not alarmed.