From the NARSAD Symposium, New York:
A funny thing happened while I was covering the NARSAD (previously the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) symposium in New York City. It had nothing to do with the research or science presented. During the last presentation of the day, Dr. Dan W. Haupt, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, caught my attention by spending more than the usual passing moment reviewing his financial disclosures. It didn’t seem all that remarkable at first– he’s a consultant for a handful of pharmaceutical companies– until you remember that at virtually every other scientific meeting, the speakers race through their disclosure slides and give them litle attention or care.
So why the focus on disclosures by Dr. Haupt? As he explained it, the Washington University School of Medicine has a strict and comprehensive policy on conflict of interest and financial disclosures (http://medcoi.wustl.edu/medadmin/coisite.nsf/) that exceeds the requirements of the National Institutes of Health. And even when the university has determined that a consulting relationship doesn’t create a conflict, investigators are required each year to justify the interactions and state how they could affect clinical decision making, Dr. Haupt said.
Financial relationships with industry are increasingly a hot topic as Congress and the NIH call for tighter scrutiny of those ties. Recently, the NIH imposed new disclosure requirements on all grants to Emory University as it investigates whether one of the university’s scientists fully disclosed his financial ties with a pharmaceutical company. Emory officials outlined the new conditions in a letter to the research community (http://www.osp.emory.edu).
So my experience at NARSAD leaves me wondering, will I soon see more presentations like Dr. Haupt’s?
– Mary Ellen Schneider