The American Psychiatric Association (APA) said Wednesday it is phasing out meals and educational seminars that are paid for by drug companies amid concerns they influence doctors' prescribing habits.
"There is data across the board that indicates that when someone gives you a present, even something like a pen or some sticky notes, it has an impact on you and there's some sort of sense of obligation, none of which is conscious," Nada Stotland, president of the APA, told AFP.
"This isn't just for doctors or psychiatrists; it's a human thing," she said.
"On top of that, we can pay for our own meals and our own education," she added.
Pharmaceutical firms sometimes fund symposia, at which doctors can earn credit for their continuing medical education, and often throw in a free meal at the seminars.
But the practice has raised concerns that the symposia may be biased in favor of the sponsoring company's medications, and that dining at the expense of the drug companies could "have a subtle influence on doctors? prescribing habits," said James Scully Jr, the APA's Medical Director.
No deadline has been set for the phase-out of the perks, but Stotland anticipated that free lunches and paid-for symposia would be things of the past for the APA's 38,000 members within three years.