US: Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties

Publisher Name: 
The New York Times

An influential psychiatrist who was the host of the
popular NPR program "The Infinite Mind" earned at least $1.3 million
from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers, income not
mentioned on the program.

The psychiatrist and radio
host, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, is the latest in a series of doctors
and researchers whose ties to drugmakers have been uncovered by Senator
Charles E. Grassley,
Republican of Iowa. Dr. Goodwin, a former director of the National
Institute of Mental Health, is the first news media figure to be
investigated.

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.

In
an interview, Dr. Goodwin said that Bill Lichtenstein, the program's
producer, knew of his consulting but that neither thought "getting
money from drug companies could be an issue."

"In retrospect, that should have been disclosed," he said.

But
Mr. Lichtenstein said that he was unaware of Dr. Goodwin's financial
ties to drugmakers and that, after an article in the online magazine
Slate this year pointed out that guests on his program had undisclosed
affiliations with drugmakers, he called Dr. Goodwin "and asked him
point-blank if he was receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies,
directly or indirectly, and the answer was, 'No.' "

Asked about the contradiction, Dr. Goodwin and Mr. Lichtenstein each stood by their versions of events.

"The
fact that he was out on the stump for pharmaceutical companies was not
something we were aware of," Mr. Lichtenstein said in an interview. "It
would have violated our agreements."

Margaret Low Smith, vice president of National Public Radio,
said NPR would remove "The Infinite Mind" from its satellite radio
service next week, the earliest date possible. Ms. Smith said that had
NPR been aware of Dr. Goodwin's financial interests, it would not have
broadcast the program.

Sarah Alspach, a spokeswoman for
GlaxoSmithKline, said, "We continue to believe that healthcare
professionals are responsible for making disclosures to their employers
and other entities, in this case National Public Radio and its
listeners."

"The Infinite Mind" has won more than 60 journalism
awards over 10 years and bills itself as "public radio's most honored
and listened to health and science program." It has more than one
million listeners in more than 300 radio markets. Mr. Lichtenstein said
that the last original program was broadcast in October, that reruns
have been running since and that "the show is going off the air."

The program has received major underwriting from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation,
both of which have policies requiring grantees to disclose and manage
conflicts of interest. Mr. Grassley wrote letters to both agencies
asking whether disclosure rules were followed for the grants. Spokesmen
for both agencies said they were cooperating with the investigation.

Mr.
Grassley is systematically asking some of the nation's leading
researchers and doctors to provide their conflict-of-interest
disclosures, and he is comparing those documents with records of actual
payments from drug companies. The records often conflict, sometimes
starkly.

In October, Mr. Grassley 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.

Mr.
Grassley's investigation demonstrates how deeply pharmaceutical
commercial interests reach into academic medicine, and it has shown
that universities are all but incapable of policing these arrangements.
As a result, almost every major medical school and medical society is
reassessing its relationships with makers of drugs and devices.

"We
know the drug companies are throwing huge amounts of money at medical
researchers, and there's no clear-cut way to know how much and exactly
where," Mr. Grassley said. "Now it looks like the same thing is
happening in journalism."

Mr. Grassley has proposed legislation that would require drugmakers to disclose all payments of $500 or more to doctors. Eli Lilly and Merck have promised to begin doing so next year.

Dr. Goodwin has written an influential textbook on bipolar disorder and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University.
In an interview, he blamed a changing ethical environment for any
misunderstandings with Mr. Lichtenstein about his consulting
arrangements. "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.

Industry
critics dismiss that view, saying that experts who consult for
drugmakers tend to minimize the value of nondrug or older drug
treatments.

In the fine print of a study he wrote in 2003, Dr. Goodwin reported consulting or speaking for nine drugmakers, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis.
Mr. Grassley asked for payment information only from GlaxoSmithKline.
Dr. Goodwin said that in recent years, GlaxoSmithKline paid him more
than other companies.

He said that he had never given marketing lectures for antidepressant medicines like Prozac,
so he saw no conflict with a program he hosted in March titled "Prozac
Nation: Revisited." which he introduced by saying, "As you will hear
today, there is no credible scientific evidence linking antidepressants to violence or to suicide."

That
same week, Dr. Goodwin earned around $20,000 from GlaxoSmithKline,
which for years suppressed studies showing that its antidepressant, Paxil, increased suicidal behaviors.

Tom
Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said
that although concerns about news media bias were growing, few people
believed that journalists took money from those they covered.
Disclosures like those surrounding Dr. Goodwin could change that, "so
this kind of thing is very damaging," Mr. Rosenstiel said.

AMP Section Name:Pharmaceuticals
  • 180 Media & Entertainment
  • 182 Health