Conflict of interest  Psychiatry  Bipolar

Harvard Psychiatrists Disciplined for Conflicts of Interest

Thursday, 21 July 2011
The primary promoters--inventors, one might say-- of diagnosing children with "bipolar" disorder, who for over a decade, aggressively promoted the biopolar diagnosis and use of antipsychotics in children, were disciplined by Harvard University and its affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

An investigation, prompted by Sen. Charles Grassely, was conducted by Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. It concluded (earlier this month) that psychiatrist Joseph Biederman and two of his proteges, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens -each of who failed to disclose millions of dollars they had each received from the makers of antipsychotics, the drugs they promoted for the treatment of bipolar in children--had indeed violated the University's/ and hospital's conflict of interest reporting  standards. 

The three wrote a mea culpa letter stating "we want to offer our sincere apologies..." acknowledging "our mistakes..."

However, no mention was made anywhere about the profound consequences of these psychiatritsts' commercially-driven clinical recommendations. No mention about the corruption of the scientific literature, about clinical practice that deviated from the Hippocratic Oath, "First, do no harm," nor was any mention made about the harm suffered by children whose doctors were misled about the safety and efficacy of highly toxic drugs.

Child psychiatrists and pediatricians throughout the US were guided by these exceedingly influential Harvard psychiatrists. 

As Sen. Chuck Grassley noted in 2008 in the Congressional Record, “they are some of the top psychiatrists in the country, and their research is some of the most important in the field. {But] They have also taken millions of dollars from the drug companies.”

The companies that paid them millions include: Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The Senator brought public attention--and to Harvard University administrators' attention--the financial conflicts of interest, “Out of concern about the relationship between this money and their research."

 Indeed, documents uncovered during litigation confirmed that the research was scientifically corrupt and commercially-driven. The New York Times reported that Dr. Biederman promised Johnson a& Johnson that a study (yet to be conducted) in preschool children who would be given the company's antipsychotic, Risperdal (risperidone) "will support the safety and effectiveness of Risperdal in this age group."

"The psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, outlined plans to test Johnson & Johnson’s drugs in presentations to company executives. One slide referred to a proposed trial in preschool children of risperidone, an antipsychotic drug made by the drug company. The trial, the slide stated, “will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone in this age group.”

Dr. Biederman was the lead author of a trial published last year concluding that treatment with risperidone improved symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in bipolar children."

Another of Biederman's Harvard ignoble disciples was Jeff Bostic, who is also at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was named in a 2009 lawsuit joined by the US Department of Justice alleging Forest Laboratories promoted its antidepressants for pediatric use without FDA approval and paid kickbacks to docs to encourage prescriptions. He received $750,000 in payments for giving talks on using these drugs in children.

Strangely, the National Institute for Mental Health, which had awarded thse psychiatrists millions of dollars at taxpayers expense. It appears that NIMH officials did not see fit to even conduct an investigation into the corruption of science and violation of federal regulations. This demonstrates a lack of professional and moral integrity at the NIMH whose administrators think nothing about the misappropriation of public money for commercially-driven, junk research.  

 Vera Sharav