Psychiatry Professors Behaving Badly

Technically they’ve been “cleared” of all charges, but I wouldn’t say these 2 psychiatry professors from the University of Pennsylvania don’t have blood on their hands. The story can be found in The Philadelphia Inquirer Business section under the heading, Penn finds no misconduct by professors in plagiarism case. I think some of us might better characterize the whitewash of these 2 psychiatry professors actions as misconduct on the university’s part.

An internal investigation by the University of Pennsylvania found no evidence of research misconduct or plagiarism by two psychiatry professors – one of whom is the chair of the department – who were accused by a colleague of putting their names on a ghostwritten paper in 2001.

One of these professors just happens to be the Chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Psychiatry Department, Dwight L. Evans.

2 authors are taking the credit for a paper authored by 5 authors. It is unclear as to the hand that these 2 authors had in this document, if any, besides the providing of signatures. 3 of those authors were from the drug company that manufactures Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline. The paper is about Paxil.

Last summer, Jay D. Amsterdam, a Penn professor who also had been involved in the study of the effect of the antidepressant Paxil on depression in patients with bipolar disorder, filed a complaint with the federal Office of Research Integrity about the study. He alleged that “the published manuscript was biased in its conclusions, made unsubstantiated efficacy claims, and downplayed the adverse event profile of Paxil.”

Now tell me, this paper wasn’t intended to be a big send up for Paxil, was it!? The university decided that since the piece was written in 2001, before they had guidelines requiring the mention of drug company co-authors, that it’s legit. Okay, I’d say that doing so is stretching the definition of legit to the breaking point.

This is not the first time the University Pennsylvania has been involved in ghostwriting scandals, and it probably won’t be the last.

Last summer, the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, called for the removal of Penn president Amy Gutmann from her position as chair of the Presidential Commission for the study of Bioethical Issues because she had not been tough enough on ghostwriting. She was recently reappointed.

Isn’t it sad that sometimes people get appointed to serve on Commissions because of their conflicts of interest rather than because of their lack of them? In more independent and truly ethically minded climes, there is a word to describe this sort of practice. That word, if you‘re still stumped, is corrupt.

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7 Responses

  1. The lead author of the 2001 article in question was Charles Nemeroff
    who is notorious for not disclosing his conflicts of interest
    http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2010/ND/feat/green.htm
    He had to resign from being editor of the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology and from Emory University.

    • Yes, indeedy! For lying at Emory University Dr. Nemeroff got hired by the University of Miami. At least, given his status, the University of Miami thought it convenient to overlook such indiscretions. Chastising a high profile psychiatrist is kind of like trying to convict a Hollywood actor, OJ Simpson comes to mind here, of murder. Of course, if OJ could have stopped while he was ahead, he might not be behind bars now.

      I’m not exactly sure how Charles Nemeroff gets into this matter, but I did hear that Jay Amsterdam, the researcher who initially made the accusations mentioned him. Apparently, rather than an article authored by 5 people, we’re talking 8 people. The 2 Penn professors taking all the credit, 3 academics of which Charles Nemeroff might be included, and the 3 writers from GlaxoSmithKline.

      There is an amusing blog post on this subject you might be interested in reading at the Mad in America website: The George Constanza Excuse For Medical Ghostwriting.

  2. I see now you have written about Charles Nemeroff several times

  3. You have said it all really. The way the drug companies have infiltrated education is hard to overturn because of the money they pour in. Students end up being taught to practice medicine in a way that is beneficial to the drug cartels – for that is what they are by definition – and not necessarily to patients. Graduates think they know what they have learned because they learned it at university, so shifting their mindset is a challenge.

    I thought these might interest you:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2107390/Sleeping-pill-users-times-likely-die-early.html

    Elderly people need protection too:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2107059/Fiona-Phillips-Dementia-drugs-robbed-father-final-weeks-life.html

    It is not just the medication prescribed by psychiatrists that can cause problems:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-442004/Man-treated-controversial-acne-drugs-kills-himself.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1218567/Woman-threw-train-complained-ageing-taking-anti-acne-drug.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2107230/Melissa-Martin-Hughes-18-hanged-park-spiralling-depression-severe-acne.html

    By Roche.

  4. For “medical writer” read – spindoctor. For “assistance” read – accept bribe or else… .

  5. Mine too!

  6. Think about it:

    “Chastising a high profile psychiatrist is kind of like trying to convict a Hollywood actor, OJ Simpson comes to mind here, of murder. Of course, if OJ could have stopped while he was ahead, he might not be behind bars now.”

    OJ ended up where he belongs but what about Nemeroff? He does not stop because he keeps getting away with it.

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/06/22/why-you-should-care-about-the-university-of-miami-nih-scandal/

    It’s all about the money, honey.

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