Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big Pharma and University Research

The irony in this story in the New York Times over the weekend was disturbing for a number of reasons.

Researchers Fail To Reveal Full Drug Pay:

A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given Congressional investigators.

By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest, according to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. Some of their research is financed by government grants.

Dr. Biederman is one of the most influential researchers in child psychiatry and is widely admired for focusing the field’s attention on its most troubled young patients. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, his work helped to fuel a controversial 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings, and a rapid rise in the use of antipsychotic medicines in children. The Grassley investigation did not address research quality.
Students may remember Biederman from the video clips I've shown in both Intro and Delinquency on the increased use of pharmaceuticals on American children. Katie Couric's interview from 60 Minutes was particularly disturbing.

Bonus Irony: when you click on the link to the New York Times story, an advertisement from a parent's organization comes up first, warning of the dangers of prescription drugs for children. I'd insert a cryptic "LOL" here, but it's more sad than humorous.

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