US Senator Charles Grassley has asked the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to provide him with financial records of its links with pharmaceutical companies going back to 2003.

He has requested that the Association’s chief executive, James Scully, provides him with a complete accounting of its revenues, except those from advertising in its journals, for the period by July 24.

For the last three years, Sen Grassley, the ranking (Republican) member of the US Senate Finance Committee and the rest of the panel have been investigating the pharmaceutical industry’s consulting arrangements and funding for continuing medical education (CME). Then, earlier this year, Sen Grassley began a specific investigation into reports that a number of leading psychiatrists - APA president-elect Alan Schatszberg of Stanford University, Joseph Biederman and Timothy Wilens of Harvard and Melissa DelBello of the University of Cincinnati – had failed to disclose payments received from pharmaceutical companies.

In his request to Dr Scully, Sen Grassley says that, based upon reports in the New York Times: “I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry can shape the practices of non-profit organizations which purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions. Specifically, it is alleged that pharmaceutical companies give money to non-profits in an attempt to garner favor in ways that increase sales of their products.”

As well as requesting details of the annual amounts of funding received by the APA from pharmaceutical companies since 2003, Sen Grassley asks Dr Scully to explain to him the Association’s policies for accepting industry funding and whether or not it allows companies to place restrictions or provide guidance on howfunding will be spent. Also, he adds: “if the APA allows companies to place restrictions on industry funding, then please explain all restrictions and/or guidance for each transfer of value from a pharmaceutical company since January 2003.”

The APA has reported that the pharmaceutical industry provided 29% of its total $62.5 million revenues in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available. Around 15% of this was accounted for by advertising in its journals and at the Association’s annual meeting, while 8% came from unrestricted funding for research fellowships and conferences and 6% from industry-supported symposia at the annual meeting. After expenses, these activities provided the Association with around $3.7 million in income from the industry that year, it adds.

The APA began conducting a review of its revenues from the pharmaceutical industry back in March, Association president Nada Stotland has said.

- Late last year, Sen Grassley and Democratic Senator Herb Kohl introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act that would require drug and device manufacturers to publicly disclose anything of value given to physicians, such as payments, gifts, honoraria or travel above certain amounts. An amended version of the bill has received the support of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHRMA) and a number of leading drugmakers.