To the Editor: In the March book review section, Dr. Danny Carlat provided an extensive review of the book Our Daily Meds (1). On the surface, it seems like a fair and scholarly review, drawing readers' attention to some sections of the book and suggesting that they might skip others. The review focuses heavily on part 2, in which the author lambastes drug-marketing practices by providing an account of a particularly egregious example.
The ethical problem here is the limited information presented on Dr. Carlat's background; only his academic affiliation is listed. Book reviews can be biased, just as research studies can, and readers may fail to recognize the bias. Why was nothing said about Dr. Carlat's prior work for drug companies as a paid speaker, his "reform," and his subsequent newsletter? Could it be that these experiences biased his review?
The review needed not just a disclosure statement but consideration of what such disclosure means—thoughtful consideration that is akin to the ethical process of informed consent. I would call such a process "informed disclosure." Perhaps two reviewers were needed for this book, with differing views on the pharmaceutical industry. That might have reduced the potential impact of reviewer bias.
Dr. Moffic is professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and family and community medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
1.Carlat D: Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs [book review]. Psychiatric Services 60:409–410, 2009