Docs paid to bash generic sleeping pills?

That's the contention of this editorial in the New York Times. Daniel Carlat, a professor at Tufts Medical School and the editor in chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report, writes that physicians are being paid to bash trazodone, which went off-patent a while ago, in scientific journals, to generate more sales of Ambien, Lunesta, and Rozerem. While usage as a sleeping aid is off-label (it's approved as an antidepressant), he contends that "psychiatrists prescribe it off label to treat insomnia, because it works so well." From the editorial:

    each time a psychiatrist prescribes trazodone, a potential sale of Lunesta or Ambien is lost. No doubt that is why, in the past few years, several articles have been published in professional journals that can only be described as trazodone-bashing. With titles like "The Use of Trazodone as a Hypnotic: A Critical Review" (published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry), these articles purport to present balanced reviews of the scientific literature on sleeping pills. But the authors, psychiatrists with university affiliations, have been paid by Sepracor, Sanofi-Aventis or Takeda, the companies that stand to gain from trazodone's downfall.

    A disclosure statement at the top of one such paper, "A Review of the Evidence for the Efficacy and Safety of Trazodone in Insomnia," also in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, states that Sepracor "assisted in the preparation" of the article, and paid the author a fee for "the services he provided in support of the development" of the manuscript.

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