What is a Psychopharmacologist?

Last week brought news of yet another drug company suppressing information about the potential side effects of one of its drugs. “A Silenced Drug Study Creates an Uproar,” a March 18 front page story in the Washington Post, reports that in 1997, AstraZeneca International failed to disclose to doctors the results of “Study 15,” in which patients taking the antipsychotic Seroquel gained an average of 11 pounds a year. Seroquel, which is FDA-approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder, generated sales of over $4.4 billion for AstraZeneca in 2008. Apparently, the FDA was aware of the results of Study 15 at the time that it approved Seroquel for patient use, but did not disseminate the information.

While doctors who write prescriptions for these atypical antipsychotics sometimes refer to themselves as psychopharmacologists, this title provides little comfort when the “psychopharmacologist” can only rely on information that the drug company and the FDA is providing him or her. Are these doctors really independent experts or shills for the drug industry?

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