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Doctor Agrees to Cut Drug Firm Ties

Jan 5, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Dr. Joseph Biederman is the latest doctor whose activities with big pharmaceutical are under review.  According to the Boston Globe’s, Biederman, a well-known child psychiatrist who has advocated the use of antipsychotics to treat bipolar disorder in children, will be suspending his financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies until such time that an agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital —Biederman’s employer—can be reached.  

Biederman is well known as being one of this country’s strongest proponents of diagnosing pediatric bipolar disorder noted the Boston Globe. As we’ve reported previously, Biederman has long advocated the use of atypical antipsychotics, like Risperdal, to treat children diagnosed with bipolar disorder. According to a report in the WSJ in November,  Biederman and colleagues published many favorable Risperdal studies while he was receiving payments from the drugs maker, Johnson & Johnson. 

Charles E. Grassley—Republican-Iowa—accused Beiderman of not disclosing over $1 million received from drug makers and a congressional investigation was initiated by Grassley this summer; Harvard Medical School is investigating the allegations said the Boston Globe. 

Massachussetts General's  agreement with Beiderman says, in part, that he will "not participate in any outside activities that are paid for or sponsored by industry, such as consulting activities and speaking engagements," reported the Boston Globe, which also noted Biederman is to cease any involvement with industry-funded activities within the hospital.  These activities include research, the Boston Globe pointed out.

The Boston Globe also reported that a hospital spokeswomen said Beiderman has stepped down from a number of industry-funded clinical trials, although the doctor continues to see patients.  Spokewoman Peggy Slasman would not provide information on the studies, said the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), but did confirm studies would continue, but without Beiderman leading them.  The hospital agreement will remain in place until reviews of Beiderman’s relationships—including if he completely disclosed drug industry funding—with drug companies are completed said the Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, scandals involving undisclosed drug money for research and promotion are a growing trend among medical researchers.  Fierce Healthcare noted that Emory University stripped the chairmanship from one of its psychiatric researchers when an investigation revealed he had not reported industry-sourced income.  Prominent researcher Charles Nemeroff agreed to step down as chair of Emory’ Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences following an internal investigation into his financial ties to drug makers.  It seemed, said the WSJ, Nemeroff failed to report to Emory over $800,000 he received from GlaxoSmithKline for over 250 speaking engagements from January 2000 to January 2006.  According to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Emory’s investigation found Nemeroff also received income from other drug makers.

Also, David Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School who sat on the scientific advisory board of supplement maker Shaklee Corporation where he helped promote a product that claimed to possess life-extending properties has stepped down.  Sinclair left his seat after the WSJ raised questions about his support of Shaklee’s Vivix Cellular Anti-Aging Tonic.  It seems, said the WSJ, that Sinclair touted Vivix—with resveratrol—for six months; that he told Shaklee salespeople at a summer conference, that “over a year ago, we set out together to do this, to make a product that you could actually activate these genetic pathways that can slow down aging”; and that he appeared on the radio with Shaklee’s chief doctor promoting Vivix.  Sinclair continues as co-chief adviser to Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a division Glaxo, which is studying resveratrol for use as a drug. Sinclair received over $8 million when Glaxo acquired Sirtris; the company pays him $297,000 annually as a consultant, said the WSJ.

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