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Harvard Psychiatrist On The Hot Seat For Conflict Of Interest

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 5:06 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Conflict of Interest, Dr. Biederman, Harvard University, Antipsychotics, Risperdal, Bipolar Disorder

Dr. Biederman likely will be deposed in lawsuits against antipsychotic drugs.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Mass. General Bio/ Dr. Joseph Biederman 


The news just keeps getting worse for Dr. Joseph Biederman, a renowned Harvard child psychiatrist, who is just as renowned for his belief in antipsychotic drugs for children with bipolar disorder.

A number of investigations are uncovering the unsavory connections between Dr. Biederman and Johnson & Johnson, J & J, which makes Risperdal, an antipsychotic.

Not only has Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) uncovered that Dr. Biederman did not disclose to Harvard $1.6 million he received as a consultant to drug companies, but parents of children allegedly harmed by the antipsychotics he widely promotes, want him deposed under oath.

As part of the litigation, e-mails gathered show the cozy relationship between the doctor and J & J.

A 2002 e-mail says of Dr. Biederman, “He approached Janssen multiple times to propose the creation of a Janssen-MGH center for C & A Bipolar disorders. The rationale of this center is to generate and disseminate data supporting the use of risperidone in this patient population.”

Risperidone is the chemical name for Risperdal. Janssen is a division of J & J.

Dr. Biederman, now heads the Johnson & Johnson Center for the study of pediatric psychopathology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Its stated goal in its 2002 annual report, is to improve psychiatric care for children and to, “move forward the commercial goals of J & J,” according to court documents.

J. & J. gave $700,000 in supporting funds in 2002 alone, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.

The New York Times reports on a message from John Bruins, a marketing executive from J & J who says, “Dr. Biederman is not someone to jerk around….He is a very proud national figure in child psych and has a very short fuse.” 

Biederman was reportedly angry that he had been denied a $280,000 research grant. Bruins writes, “I have never seen someone so angry.”  And Bruins says he is afraid of the consequences if Dr. Biederman doesn’t receive a check soon.

A statement issued by Massachusetts General on Monday (see below) says the grant money was “for scientific and educational purposed only and not for purposes of promoting, directly or indirectly, the products of Johnson & Johnson and its affiliates.”

But another statement from a division of J & J, Janssen Pharmaceutica, is much more explicit.

It says the financial exchange had “an objective to conduct rigorous clinical trials to clarify appropriate use and dosing of Risperdal in children.”

Just last week, a federal panel said Risperdal and other similar drugs are being used too widely on children and carry substantial risks. Other drugs include, Abilify (Briston-Myers Squibb); Zyprexa ( Eli Lilly); Seroquel (AstraZeneca); Geodon (Pfizer).  

Bipolar Disorder

Between 1994 and 2003, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder among U.S. youth  jumped 40-fold, according to a study published in the  September 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Whether the disorder had previously been underdiagnosed, or was now overdiagnosed was undetermined by the authors.  With the growing number of cases being diagnosed came a corresponding growth in the use of antipsychotics.

The federal panel said 389,000 children and teens were treated last year with Risperdal, the bulk of which were age 12 or younger. During that time period, more than 1,200 children given Risperdal suffered serious problems, including 31 who died. 11 of the deaths were for treatment for which Risperdal is not approved.

The Boston Globe, in a profile on him last year reported, “No one has done more to convince Americans that even small children can suffer the dangerous mood swings of bipolar disorder than Dr. Joseph Biederman of Massachusetts General Hospital.”  

Nov. 24, 2008

Statement from Massachusetts General Hospital 

From 2002 to 2006 the MGH-Johnson & Johnson Center for the Study of Pediatric Psychopathology provided a large multidisciplinary group of researchers the infrastructure necessary to complete projects related to the psychiatric care of children in an efficient, expeditious and integrated manner. The grant agreements stated that the center was for scientific and educational purposes only and not for purposes of promoting, directly or indirectly, the products of Johnson & Johnson and its affiliates. The agreements also stated that the MGH retained control of the content of the center programs, and Johnson & Johnson and its affiliates agreed not to direct the content of any program.

The allegations related to the Johnson & Johnson Center that were described in various media reports today have raised significant questions and concerns about the implementation of those agreements. The MGH takes these allegations very seriously and intends to investigate these issues thoroughly. #




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