Psychiatrist Accused of $2.8 Million Payola From Pharmaceutical Company
The cozy relationship between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry was revealed as a prominent Emory University psychiatrist failed to report $2.8 million he received in consulting fees from GlaxoSmithKline. The allegations against Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, were announced in the probe headed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who is promoting a bill called the “Physician Payment Sunshine Act” that would require pharmaceutical companies and medical devise manufacturers to report payments over $500 that they make to physicians.
Dr. Nemeroff was the principal investigator in a study of five Glaxo drugs for treatment of depression. He received the money for delivering talks to physicians, even though he had signed university documents that he would not accept more than $10,000 a year from any one company.
He allegedly repeatedly underreported the amount of consulting money he was paid, year after year. In 2003 he said he received $15,000, when in actuality he was paid $119,756. In 2002 the company reported paying him $232,248 and he reported receiving $15,000. From 2000 through 2006, Dr. Nemeroff earned more than $960,000 from GlaxoSmithKline but listed earnings of less than $35,000 for the period on his university disclosure forms, according to Congressional documents.
Nemeroff is the 6th physician accused since the investigation began earlier this year. These psychiatrists are from the top research institutions in the country. They are leaders in the profession and one was the president-elect for the American Psychiatric Association. The physicians consult with 20 or more drug and devise companies at one time with lucrative arrangements for speaking, conducting symposiums, and writing about the safety and efficacy of drugs.
It is critical that academic research and influential professors that do the research be independent of drug company influence and money. Several studies have shown that people who receive money from drug companies are more likely to report positive results from the drug. The same researchers speak at conferences and influence thousands of their colleagues to prescribe the drug.
We need to be crystal clear about what represents conflict of interest between medical research and industry. Our patients deserve to know that drugs and devises that are prescribed for them have the best research backing it up and that their doctors are working for their best interest only.
Dr. Nemeroff stepped down from his role as Emory Department Chair of Psychiatry today.