Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 2004;6(1):e31 

In This Article


There is increasing concern and disdain among practitioners of psychopharmacology about information provided to us from the pharmaceutical industry as a function of their marketing efforts. Some practitioners will not talk to pharmaceutical representatives for fear of receiving biased information. I struggle with this attitude. Although it is clearly true that the accuracy and integrity of information varies and some sources are better than others, I have always found that more information is better when one is trying to make decisions about anything, including prescribing psychotropics. I have never been impressed that ignorance is bliss, or even useful or protective of something. To a certain extent, all information is subject to some bias from its source. The only questions are how much bias, and what it is biased toward or against.

Most of us would agree that in virtually all other contexts, shunning information is a dangerous or foolish thing. Most inherent bias is immediately apparent and easily factored in as it is considered and evaluated. To say that biased information should be avoided is similar to saying one should not watch TV because the commercials might influence us. We all watch TV to a certain extent; we listen to the commercials and we understand that they are trying to sell us something. Whatever we learn from commercials is gleaned in the context of our understanding that they are sales pitches. Still, by informing us about new products or product changes, the information from commercials can be useful to some of us at certain times.

Another example would be the process most of us go through in buying a car. We visit dealerships and look at models that we are interested in. We talk to the salespeople on the floor. We know that their main priority is not for us to buy the best car, but to buy their car. Still, we get information from them, and we often share with them information that their competitors have given us to see how they react to it. By talking to a number of salespeople and playing them off against each other, we can become relatively quickly informed as to the strengths and weaknesses of the various cars that we are interested in. We accept without hesitation the fact that the information salespeople provide us is biased, but the process of receiving it is still very useful in making the ultimate decision of which car to buy.