When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

22 November 2008

If you participate in enough graft, the interests cancel each other out

Influential psychiatrist Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin is a former director of NIMH, co-authored the standard modern medical textbook on bipolar disorder and had a very popular radio show ("The Infinite Mind") on National Public Radio, among other things.

Depressingly, he also "earned at least $1.3 million from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers" without disclosing this income--or the potential conflict of interest that it represents--to his listeners, his syndicators, or NPR:
Dr. Goodwin’s weekly radio programs have often touched on subjects important to the commercial interests of the companies for which he consults. In a program broadcast on Sept. 20, 2005, he warned that children with bipolar disorder who were left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view.

“But as we’ll be hearing today,” Dr. Goodwin told his audience, “modern treatments — mood stabilizers in particular — have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children.”

That same day, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Goodwin $2,500 to give a promotional lecture for its mood stabilizer drug, Lamictal, at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. In all, GlaxoSmithKline paid him more than $329,000 that year for promoting Lamictal, records given to Congressional investigators show.
He's hardly alone in the research community, where influential academic researchers can earn sneaker endorsement-sized secondary incomes for lending their imprimatur to the pill, powder or potion du jour:
In October, [Senator Charles] Grassley [of Iowa] revealed that Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff of Emory University, an influential psychiatric researcher, earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drugmakers from 2000 to 2007, failed to report at least $1.2 million of that income to his university and violated federal research rules. As a result, the National Institutes of Health suspended a $9.3 million research grant to Emory, and Dr. Nemeroff gave up his chairmanship of Emory’s psychiatry department.

In June, the senator revealed that Dr. Joseph Biederman of Harvard, whose work has fueled an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children, had earned at least $1.6 million from drugmakers from 2000 to 2007, and failed to report most of this income to Harvard.


“More than 10 years ago, when he and I got involved in this effort, it didn’t occur to me that my doing what every other expert in the field does might be considered a conflict of interest,” Dr. Goodwin said.

He defended the views he expressed in many of his radio programs and said that, because he consulted for so many drugmakers at once, he had no particular bias.

“These companies compete with each other and cancel each other out,” he said.
Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties (New York Times, 21 November 2008)

Lovely. If you're on the take from enough different sources, that makes it all right... and hey, everybody's doing it!

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