Conflicts of interest and industry professional relationships in psychiatric neurosurgery: A comparative literature review

Laura Y. Cabrera, Hayden M.K. Boyce, Rachel McKenzie, Robyn Bluhm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE The research required to establish that psychiatric treatments are effective often depends on collaboration between academic clinical researchers and industry. Some of the goals of clinical practice and those of commercial developers of psychiatric therapies overlap, such as developing safe and effective treatments. However, there might also be incompatible goals; physicians aim to provide the best care they can to their patients, whereas the medical industry ultimately aims to develop therapies that are commercially successful. In some cases, however, clinical research may be aiming both at improved patient care and commercial success. It is in these cases that a conflict of interest (COI) arises. The goal of this study was to identify differences and commonalities regarding COIs between 2 kinds of somatic psychiatric interventions: pharmacological and neurosurgical. METHODS The authors conducted a study focused on professional concerns regarding pharmacological and neurosurgical psychiatric interventions. They used medical and bioethics journal articles as an indicator of professionals' concerns and carried out a thematic content analysis of peer-reviewed articles published between 1960 and 2015, using PubMed and Google Scholar. RESULTS One hundred thirty-seven relevant articles were identified, of which 86 papers focused primarily on psychopharmacology and 51 on neurosurgery. The intervention most discussed in the psychiatric neurosurgery data set was deep brain stimulation (n = 42). While there were no significant differences at the level of categories, pharmacological and neurosurgical interventions differ in the underlying themes discussed. Two issues widely discussed in the articles on pharmaceutical interventions, but largely neglected in the neurosurgery articles, were medical professional issues and industry involvement. CONCLUSIONS COIs are a neglected issue in the discussion of ethics concerns regarding medical devices in psychiatry. Yet as these interventions become more common, it is important to address them in part through learning from the discussion regarding COIs in the pharmaceutical industry and by developing approaches to address those aspects of COIs that are unique to the medical device industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE20
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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