Brown University’s Martin Keller is the latest chairman of psychiatry to be replaced since an on-going investigation led by Iowa Republican, Senator Charles Grassley, on behalf of the US Senate Finance Committee revealed the millions of dollars in undisclosed payments flowing between psychiatric drug makers and “key opinion leaders” in the field of child psychiatry.
In recent months, Charles Nemeroff at Emory University gave up a post he held for 17 years and Alan Schatzberg also stepped down at Stanford as chairs of their psychiatry departments. In December, Massachusetts General Hospital announced that Harvard’s Joseph Biederman would no longer be participating in several drug company funded clinical trials and would limit his speaking and consulting activities with drugs makers, pending the outcome of an inquiry by the hospital of his potential conflict of interests.
Fred Goodwin, the former host of a radio show called “Infinite Minds,” broadcast for years by National Pubic Radio, had his radio show thrown off the air last fall.
Keller originally gained fame as the lead author on Paxil Study 329, which claimed Paxil was “generally well tolerated and effective for major depression in adolescents.” However, a later review of the underlying data showed the drug worked no better than a placebo. In addition, among the 93 kids taking Paxil, five suicide-related adverse events occurred compared to only one in the group of 89 kids taking a placebo.
Yet in the 2001 paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the authors reported that only one child suffered a serious adverse event, a headache, not considered to be related to treatment with Paxil.
Documents obtained in litigation have since revealed that GlaxoSmithKline knew the study was a failure when the data was reviewed in 1998, long before the paper appeared in the Journal.
Keller always gets the credit for publishing Study 329, but the fact is, not one of the authors who lent their names to this fraudulent study have come forth to explain their obvious deception. Therefore, their names deserve to be highlighted as well and include: Neil Ryan, Michael Strober, Rachel Klein, Stan Kutcher, Boris Birmaher, Owen Hagino, Harold Koplewicz, Gabrielle Carlson, Gregory Clarke, Graham Emslie, David Feinberg, Barbara Geller, Vivek Kusumakar, George Papatheodorou, William Sack, Michael Sweeney, Karen Wagner, Elizabeth Weller, Nancy Winters, Rosemary Oakes, James McCafferty, and Sally Laden.
Senator Grassley’s list thus far also includes Harvard’s Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens; Melissa DelBello at the University of Cincinnati; and Karen Wagner and Augustus John Rush from the University of Texas. Rush recently moved to Singapore.
The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs and, “Actions taken by key opinion leaders often have profound impact upon the decisionsmade by taxpayer funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid and the way that patients are treated and funds expended,” according to the Senator.
(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Scoop Independent News and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America)