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NPR Clears The Air Of Conflict Charges With Big Pharma

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 24, 2008 11:39 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Conflict of Interest, NPR, Media, Big Pharma, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Prozac, Mood Stabilizers

Followup on Grassley investigation into the media.


IMAGE SOURCE: New York Times image of  Goodwin


National Public Radio wants to clear the air about the radio program, “The Infinite Mind” after a Congressional inquiry found its host on the receiving end of millions in pharmaceutical money.

Dr. Frederick Goodwin, hosted the program and is not an employee of NPR, Anna Christopher, a spokesperson for the public radio network tells IB News.

“NPR does not pay his salary,” she says, adding that no one associated with “The Infinite Mind” team is an NPR employee. 

“The Infinite Mind,” is an independently produced program that is distributed to 300 public radio stations that NPR made available through the Sirius Satellite Network on a weekly subscription service.  

It has now been taken off the service, according to Christopher.

The program’s producer, Bill Lichtenstein of Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc., made the program available to NPR. IB News has a call into his Cambridge, Mass office but had not received a response by publishing time.

The New York Times reports that Lichtenstein says he asked Dr. Goodwin about his consulting activities. Dr. Goodwin denied it, says Lichtenstein, who has spent decades as a producer at 20/20, World News Tonight and Nightline.

Everyone on the NPR payroll is expected to follow a strict code of ethics, says Christopher, which states on their Web site that “Our news content must meet the highest standards of credibility. The purpose of this code is to protect the credibility of NPR’s programming by ensuring high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and staff conduct.”

The controversy came to a head Friday, when the  New York Times reported that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), as head of the Senate Finance Committee, investigated Dr. Goodwin and found him on the receiving end of $1.3 million over the last five years, lecturing on behalf of pharmaceutical products and keeping that relationship secret while discussing mental health on his science and health program.   

He is the first media figure uncovered by Sen. Grassley, who has focused on conflicting interests between doctors and medical researchers and drug companies.

In one show, Dr. Goodwin, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, suggested that children with bipolar disorder who do not undergo treatment with drugs could suffer brain damage. He has frequently suggested that “mood stabilizers” are safe and effective in bipolar children.

Grassley found that Dr. Goodwin took more than $300,000 promoting the mood stabilizer Lamictal from its maker, GlaxoSmithKline.

In a May 2008 program on “The Infinite Mind,” Slate.com reports that Dr. Goodwin discussed “Prozac Nation: Revisited” and had four guests who said concerns about Prozac had been “overblown”.   Slate reports that all four guests on that show also had ties to Big Pharma.

Slate reports that conflicting interests abound even in unexpected places. A recent survey of academic medical centers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 60 percent of academic department chairs have personal ties to industry—serving as consultants, board members, or paid speakers, while two-thirds of the academic departments had institutional ties to industry.

So what are the ethical standards at NPR for independent productions?

While NPR distances itself from Dr. Goodwin, its own code of ethics requires producers and hosts to sign contracts that specify there will be no conflicts, and that prohibit taking of anything of value that would suggest a conflict of interest. 

NPR’s code which addresses independents as well states, “The code also applies to material provided to NPR by independent producers, member station contributors and/or reporters and freelance reporters, writers, news contributors or photographers.

The Society of Professional Journalists, (SPJ) Code of Ethics says, “Take nothing of value” to avoid any tainting of information from those who may feel they can pay for the news. 

NPR agrees saying in its own code, “Our coverage must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest. At NPR we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness. We must treat the people we cover and our audience with respect.”

Dr. Goodwin’s “The Infinite Mind” is in direct violation of the NPR code of ethics and practices, “and is being removed from the channel,” Says Christopher.  #


Anonymous User
Posted by David
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:08 PM EST

There is little difference between this crooked doctor and a war profiteer like Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

What a Sh*t bag.

Anonymous User
Posted by punctuationpolice
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:11 PM EST

"Conflict(s)-of-interest" is an adjective that modifies a noun. In your story, no nouns are given. You discuss the noun (conflict) which is modified by the prepositional phrase "of interest." No hyphens needed. Ask any 4th grader.

Your punctuation is a distraction from the message. A higher level of writing is expected of a newsworthy website.

Anonymous User
Posted by fool_on_the_hill
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:38 PM EST

In my mind, Goodwin is even worse than a war profiteer. Unlike a politician, which the public is wise to distrust, he betrayed the presumption of trust extended to members of his profession. Let's hope this closes the door on any sort of professional career for this low-life dirt bag.

Anonymous User
Posted by Juan Perez
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:41 PM EST

to punctuationpolice,
Your comment about punctuation is a distraction from the message.

Anonymous User
Posted by Juan Perez
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:41 PM EST

to punctuationpolice,
Your comment about punctuation is a distraction from the message.

Posted by sally
Monday, November 24, 2008 1:44 PM EST


Comments for this article are closed.

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