November 16, 2021 at 4:12 pm

Medical Textbooks Tainted by Financial Conflicts of Interest

Financial conflicts of interest between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals in private practice and at academic institutions is nothing new. However, a recent study highlights this serious problem regarding conflicts of interest and medical textbooks used to train psychiatrists. STAT news recently reported “two-thirds of nine widely used psychopharmacology textbooks had at least one editor or contributing author who received personal payments from drug makers.”

The study, which was originally published in the Community Mental Health Journal, found more than half of the editors or authors “received more than $11 million between 2013 and 2020, and most of the money was paid to a single author by one drug maker that sells an antidepressant. Five of those editors and authors — or 24% — each received more than $75,000 during that period.” Nearly half of all of these payments from pharma were for activities unrelated to research, such as consulting and promotional speaking.

The findings are troubling given that medical textbooks help shape future prescribing practices and there is no requirement for medical textbooks to disclose financial conflicts of interest.

“If students and residents are exposed to biased assessments about the efficacy and safety of commonly prescribed medications, this can lead medical students and psychiatrists in training to believe these medications are more effective and safer than they actually are,” explained Lisa Cosgrove, a co-study author, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of counseling and school psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “In turn, this can lead to overprescribing, non-rational prescribing.”