Courtesy of The New York Times
A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful anti-psychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drugmakers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given to congressional investigators.
By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest, according to Sen. Charles Grassley (R- Iowa). Some of their research is financed by government grants.
Like Biederman, Wilens belatedly reported earning at least $1.6 million from 2000 to 2007, and another Harvard colleague, Dr. Thomas Spencer, reported earning at least $1 million after being pressed by Grassley's investigators. But even these amended disclosures may understate the researchers' outside income because some entries contradict payment information from drugmakers, Grassley found.
In one example, Biederman reported no income from Johnson & Johnson for 2001 in a disclosure report filed with the university. When asked recently to check again, he reported receiving $3,500. But Johnson & Johnson said it paid him $58,169 in 2001, Grassley found.
The Harvard group's consulting arrangements with drugmakers were already controversial because of the researchers' advocacy of unapproved uses of psychiatric medicines in children.
In an e-mail, Biederman said, "My interests are solely in the advancement of medical treatment through rigorous and objective study," and he said he took conflict-of-interest policies "very seriously." Wilens and Spencer said that they thought they had complied with conflict-of-interest rules.
John Burklow, a spokesman for the National Institutes of Health, said: "If there have been violations of NIH policy—and if research integrity has been compromised—we will take all the appropriate action within our power to hold those responsible accountable. This would be completely unacceptable behavior, and NIH will not tolerate it."
Alyssa Kneller, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the doctors had been referred to a university conflict committee for review.
Bonnie - this is inexcusable behavior, especially after the supposed steps to "reforms the process" led by the NIH, universities, doctor and research associations, and Big Pharma.