Friday, December 16, 2011

Corrupt Medicine

"...Not surprisingly, in July 2011 an influential Harvard Medical School faculty, famous for his research and teaching about the diagnosis and treatment of Bipolar Disorder in children, was sanctioned by Harvard for not disclosing over a million dollars in fees by the pharmaceutical companies. The same story is unfortunately familiar to us in many different industries today. Powerful corporations motivated by profit, manipulate the consensus reality, and disseminate disinformation that has nothing to do with science or public health...."
Cutely politically-correct diagnosis.  But the problem here is not with the "powerful corporations motivated by profit", it's with Harvard; which sanctioned, rather than fired, faculty members who violated their trust.  Harvard's a non-profit, but that doesn't mean they're saintly.  Unfortunately this sort of slack-minded thinking of attributing all evil to "corporations" is all to common.

Here's the full story:
"...For more than a decade, Biederman and his colleagues aggressively promoted the diagnosis and use of antipsychotics to treat childhood bipolar disorder, a problem that once was largely believed to be confined to adults. But the docs maintained this was underdiagnosed in kids and the meds could be used for treatment, even though they had not been approved for most pediatric use at the time. Meanwhile, the relationships with drugmakers were never properly disclosed (back story).

"And for years, payments they received from drugmakers were not thoroughly reported to university officials. Yet, millions of dollars in NIH grants, which were administered by the hospital, were awarded to the docs at the same time they were receiving money from various drugmakers that make and sell antipsychotics and antidepressants. Which ones? Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"At one point, Biederman pushed J&J to fund a research center at MassGen that would focus on the use of its Risperdal antipsychotic in children, well before the med was approved for pediatric use. He was then placed in charge of the institute and began a study of 40 children between 4 and 6 years old who were given Risperdal and Lilly’s Zyprexa, another antipsychotic. At the time, Harvard and MGH rules forbid researchers from running trials with drugmakers if they receive more than $10,000 from a company that makes the drug (back story)....
For this, he received a spanking:
"...In a mea culpa addressed to their colleagues, Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens wrote that “we want to offer our sincere apologies to HMS and MGH communities…We always believed we were complying in good faith with the institutional polices and our mistakes were honest ones. We now recognize that we should have devoted more time and attention to the detailed requirements of these policies and to their underlying objectives.”

And what is their punishment? They must refrain from “all industry-sponsored outside activities” for one year; for two years after the ban ends, they must obtain permission from the med school and the hospital before engaging in any of these activities and they must report back afterward; they must undergo certain training and they face delays before being considered for promotion or advancement (you can read their letter here)...."
What's missing from this story?  Any accusation that the  "powerful corporations motivated by profit" did anything wrong.  The doctors clearly did, and the University didn't exercise any oversight over its staff.

As this piece puts it:
"Drug manufacturers are hardly the only ones to blame--American children are being victimized by a consortium of influential psychiatrists at prestigious academic institutions--a list of about 30 KOLs (key opinion leaders in psychiatry) is contained in one of the J&J Risperdal documents; psychiatry's professional associations lend their "authoritative" support to this crime--as do a bevy of industry-financed patient "advocacy" groups. As if that were not enough, government agencies that were established to protect the public health and the scientific process have also come under the influence of industry.

"These commercially-driven stakeholders are condemning children to a life of drug dependency and drug-induced disabling chronic physical and mental illnesses...."
Emphasis in the original.

Here's the cherry on top:
"...Dr. Biederman is the researcher whose 'science' the FDA said it was leaning upon when it decided that pediatric bipolar disorder was a valid diagnosis back in July...."
P.S. "Johnson & Johnson fined $1.1bn for misleading doctors over anti-psychotic drug Risperdal":
"J&J, which is America's second-biggest drug company, said that 'an individual state should not penalise a pharmaceutical company for using a Federal Drug Agency-approved package insert or decide for itself whether a company complies with FDA rules'".
That's a good one.