BY: DR. HAIDER A. NAQVI, PROFESSOR AT THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, ZIAUDDIN UNIVERSITY
There is a correlation between the number of drugs (5 to 7) prescribed by a psychiatrist and the interaction with the pharmaceutical industry in the context of Pakistan. Given the absence of self-regulation and professional oversight, the pharma-doctors’ “deals” are totally unchecked. Doctors’ overseas trips in the name of professional meetings and conferences, which ultimately come from the pocket of a poor patient in a developing country, have become a norm. The visiting psychiatrist has no contribution to make in these academic meetings except to post selfies on social media, sightseeing and visiting friends and relatives – at the cost of the integrity of the industry and patients. The industry blatantly pursues these doctors, who occupy positions of power & authority in academia and professional societies, with no scientific or intellectual credentials. The deplorable glove-in-hand theft to increase the sales of drugs is contributing to a huge burden of drug-related complications. While the psychiatrist post selfies outside convention centres and airports, the patients struggle for their lives on ventilators after neuroleptic malignant syndromes and serotonin toxicity. This is despite the huge pharma driven reading material circulated in the guise of teaching. Most teaching programmes in the country produce qualified professionals or so-called psychiatrists who act as agents of sales for companies. The art of psychiatry is dead and buried, and what remains is an uneasy mix of profit maximisation and exploitation. The act of service and innovation in therapies designed to promote human dignity and well-being is long gone. There are no easy solutions to the polyfacted health system issues in Pakistan. However, consumer rights and patients education remains a key to raising awareness against the pharma-doctors cartel bent upon increasing the cost of care in mental health.
About the author: An academic psychiatrist and fallible human being in a process of evolution.