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Renowned Psychiatrists on Drug Company Payrolls

Money from pharmaceutical companies has corrupted much of the psychiatric profession.

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Recently, emails inside Johnson & Johnson (manufacturer of the powerful antipsychotic drug Risperdal) regarding Biederman were made public as a result of suits brought by parents against Johnson & Johnson and other antipsychotic manufacturers, claiming that their children were harmed by these drugs whose risks the companies minimized. The New York Times on November 25, 2008 reported:

In one November 1999 e-mail, John Bruins, a Johnson & Johnson marketing executive, begs his supervisors to approve a $3,000 check to Dr. Biederman in payment for a lecture he gave at the University of Connecticut. "Dr. Biederman is not someone to jerk around," Mr. Bruins wrote. "He is a very proud national figure in child psych and has a very short fuse." Mr. Bruins wrote that Dr. Biederman was furious after Johnson & Johnson rejected a request that Dr. Biederman had made to receive a $280,000 research grant. "I have never seen someone so angry," Mr. Bruins wrote.

In October 2008, Congressional investigators disclosed that one of psychiatry’s most influential researchers, Charles Nemeroff of Emory University, had received more than $2.8 million from drug companies between 2000 to 2007 and had failed to report at least $1.2 million of that income to his university and also appeared to have violated federal research rules. And other less prominent psychiatrists researchers with similar ties to drug companies have also been exposed by Congressional investigators.

Earlier in 2008, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was particular troubled by what investigators told him about psychiatry’s premier professional organization, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), described by the New York Times as "the voice of establishment psychiatry." After he learned that the president-elect of the APA, Alan Schatzberg of Stanford University, had $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company and that the APA itself was heavily dependent on drug-company financing, Grassley wrote a letter to the APA stating, "I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry can shape the practices of nonprofit organizations that purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions."

Recent studies reveal some of how drug company money has compromised the objectivity of drug research. Psychological Medicine in November 2006 reported that drug studies funded by pharmaceutical companies show positive results for psychiatric drugs 78 percent of the time, while drug studies without pharmaceutical company funding show favorable results only 48 percent of the time. This was discovered after examining 301 articles that were published between 1992 and 2002 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Also reported by Psychological Medicine was that the percentage of studies sponsored by drug companies increased from 25% in 1992 to 57% in 2002. Currently, it is increasingly rare for a drug study not to be funded by the drug’s manufacturer.

Why are so many doctors unaware of just how poorly antidepressants have actually fared in studies? The New England Journal of Medicine (January 17, 2008) reviewed both published and unpublished antidepressant studies registered with the FDA between 1987 and 2004 on twelve antidepressants, and it reported that most studies with negative results were never published in journals. While 94 percent of antidepressant studies published in journals show antidepressants to be more effective than placebos, only 51 percent of all registered studies were determined by the FDA to show antidepressants superior to placebos.

The damage to the general public caused by drug company corruption of psychiatry goes beyond the cover up of the ineffectiveness and dangers of drugs. Drug company corruption of psychiatry has also resulted in a disregard of non-drug solutions for emotional and behavioral difficulties. In response to his corruption charges, former NPR host Frederick Goodwin told the New York Times that because he consults for so many drug makers at once that he has no particular bias, "These companies compete with each other and cancel each other out." Using Goodwin’s logic, if a politician is on the take from every oil corporation, then that politician has no conflict of interest with regard to energy policy.

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