I get asked by right wingers why I read the NY Times. Not all investigative journalism can be handled by bloggers in our pajamas, and the Times coverage of the conflict of interest story of Dr. Joseph Biederman.
Dr. Biederman’s work and reputation have helped fuel a huge increase in the use of powerful, risky and expensive antipsychotic medicines in young people, an upsurge that brought a warning recently from a federally appointed panel of experts. Now it is hard to know whether he has been speaking as an independent expert or a paid shill for the drug industry.
The influence peddling is quite pervasive, as Dr. Frederick Goodwin, the radio host of Infinite Mind, a talk show about health on NPR, was paid over $300K to promote a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder over the years.
Here’s a quote to show exactly how bad this problem is:
Dr. Goodwin has written an influential textbook on bipolar disorder and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University. In an interview, he blamed a changing ethical environment for any misunderstandings with Mr. Lichtenstein about his consulting arrangements. “More than 10 years ago, when he and I got involved in this effort, it didn’t occur to me that my doing what every other expert in the field does might be considered a conflict of interest,” Dr. Goodwin said.
The party is about to be over for these very important gatekeepers. In many ways this is the same problem that is one of the primary causes of our current economic crisis. The independent ratings agencies were bought off and played along with the banks and lenders, giving them AAA status so that they can borrow easy money without collateral. These doctors are at the top of their profession, and spent decades cultivating a reputation in their field to cash it in as shills for drug companies. I am privy to hearing about children with development issues, I know that Risperdal is prescribed pretty commonly to kids younger than 7. These are powerful drugs and the same kind of groupthink that caused the housing bubble is going on with the brightest minds in academia.
So, the experts on Wall Street and Washington DC have ruined our economy and the experts in Psychiatry may be ruining our kids. In this respect the anti-elitist groundswell of support for politicians like Sarah Palin makes a heckuva lotta sense to me, you betcha.
A study was done at Baylor on the effect of sponsorship on the neural correlates of decision making. A simple meal voucher definitely biases decisions in favor of a sponsor, and the part of the brain encoding reward lights up when the logo of the sponsor is flashed.
Before this study, Baylor had allowed drug companies to cater for the MDs, every day. It’s just lunch, right? Well, after this study, the party was over, no more free lunch. The party is about to be over for all of these guys. It is apparent that they can no longer police themselves against these outrageous conflicts of interest, so government will soon be stepping in a blocking these kinds of transactions. Kudos to Senator Charles Grassley for taking this issue head-on.
In our society today there seems to be a disturbing lack of criticism. Don’t rock the boat or you risk your job, or degree. In wrestling, this is called, “don’t break kayfabe”. Just keep up appearances so when we ask for a grant or get another loan for free money, we get it. Because of this lack of honesty and outright greed, we will have more bureaucrats draining efficiency out of our economy. But the guys we trusted got greedy, so thanks a lot, jerks.