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NPR Radio Host's Conflict With Drug Makers Exposed by Sen. Grassley

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, November 21, 2008 1:57 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Conflicts-of-Interest, Sen. Grassley, GlaxoSmithKline, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Bipolar Disorder

Sen. Grassley investigates radio host taking money from drug companies and failing to disclose it.

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IMAGE SOURCE: New York Times reporter,  Gardiner Harris on Dr. Goodwin

 

 

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) just keeps uncovering all kinds of skeletons in the closets of influential people. 

This time he has found that a popular National Public Radio (NPR) host of the health and science show, “The Infinite Mind,” has a conflict-of-interest with the very drug companies he talks about. 

Psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, earned at least $1.3 million over the last five years, lecturing for drug makers and keeping that relationship secret.  

He is the first media figure uncovered by Sen. Grassley, who as the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member has focused his investigation into conflicts-of-interest so far between doctors and medical researchers and drug companies.

“The Infinite Mind,” is a weekly program that has more than one million listeners in 300 radio markets.

Dr. Goodwin is a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health who often discusses mental health disorders on his show, such as bipolar disorder.

In a September 2005 program, he suggested that children with bipolar disorder who do not undergo treatment, could suffer brain damage.  He has frequently suggested to his audience that “mood stabilizers” are safe and effective in bipolar children.

On the day he discussed mood stabilizers for children on his show, Dr. Goodwin took $2,500 from GlaxoSmithKline to promote Lamictal, a mood stabilizer, during one lecture at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. Altogether that year he collected another $329,000 for promoting the drug. Grassley uncovered about nine drug makers funding Dr. Goodwin.

Did NPR know about the activity? 

No, says NPR, which will remove “The Infinite Mind” from its satellite radio service next week.   

The program’s producer, Bill Lichtenstein of Lichtenstein Creative Media, 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. Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc. also distributes "The Infinite Mind."

Blame the misunderstanding on changing ethics considerations, says Dr. Goodwin.

“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 to the New York Times.

The show is now going off the air.

Sen. Grassley has been exploring the financial disclosures of doctors, professors and researchers, and comparing them with the payments listed by drug companies.

He has uncovered conflicts among psychiatrists at Harvard University, among them Dr. Joseph Biederman, considered a leader in children’s psychiatry.  He took at least $1.6 million from the drug companies that make antipsychotic medicines that he promotes for children.

Dr. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University earned more than $2.8 million consulting for drug companies over the last five years.  Both doctors are required by the universities, to disclose all payments in full. 

As a result of failing to do so, Dr. Nemeroff lost a $9 million research grant for Emory and has given up his leadership as head of the school’s psychiatry department.

It’s long been known that pharmaceutical companies extend deep roots of influence into opinion makers.  Sen. Grassley’s investigation has shown that universities and now the media are incapable of policing those conflicts.

As a result, some drug companies, such as Eli Lilly and Merck, promise transparency in posting the payments they extend for consulting services, beginning next year.

Grassley is aggressively advocating transparency in the medical establishment and is promoting the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which will require drug companies and medical device makers to disclose any payments of value above $500 to physicians, and now perhaps, the media. #


51 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Kathleen
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:00 PM EST

It's wonderful that Senator Grassley is doing this kind of investigation. Too long have citizens been paying for just this sort of graft through high pharmaceutical prices, not to mention being duped into medicating their children and themselves unnecessarily.

Anonymous User
Posted by edward thomas
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:02 PM EST

Another crook caught with his pants down. Good for Sen. Grassley. May he keep up the good work.

Anonymous User
Posted by Tyler Ellis
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:08 PM EST

Way to go Senator Grassley!

Anonymous User
Posted by Larry-T
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:10 PM EST

Count me as one Democrat who truly appreciates and respects the work the Senator Grassley does in bringing such abuses to light.

Anonymous User
Posted by Dee
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:15 PM EST

THANK-YOU to Sen. Grassley for going out on a limb and exposing these conflicts. It really refreshing in these times that someone in politics still has ehtics.

Anonymous User
Posted by William Gleason
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:16 PM EST

As a senior Independent, I appreciate what the senator from my birth state is doing as a watchdog for the public.

Anonymous User
Posted by amy
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:16 PM EST

It's about time!!! Finally the truths are coming out. Hooray for Senator Grassley for taking the time to dig into this deep-rooted abuse.

Anonymous User
Posted by Tonia
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:19 PM EST

It is shameful that Dr. Goodwin (and others) would be so greedy as to use the trust bestowed upon him as a doctor to hawk pharmaceuticals to people. Thank you Senator Grassley for your courage to expose this gross conflict of interest.

Anonymous User
Posted by Tonia
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:19 PM EST

It is shameful that Dr. Goodwin (and others) would be so greedy as to use the trust bestowed upon him as a doctor to hawk pharmaceuticals to people. Thank you Senator Grassley for your courage to expose this gross conflict of interest.

Anonymous User
Posted by ali gator
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:20 PM EST

bravo, about time. Another example of greed and obfuscation. Lamictal is horrible stuff. Amazing how those who are trusted to protect or advise us in these matters put their interests before ours. So much for the Hippocratic oath, do no harm.

Anonymous User
Posted by Ed
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:24 PM EST

I'm glad Grassley's spearheading these investigations. But couldn't we call Goodwin's activities an "endorsement" of a product? Because he kept it secret, does it make it unlawful? Can someone clarify the difference?

Anonymous User
Posted by John H
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:28 PM EST

I'm thrilled to have these conflicts-of-interest come to light. But why do I feel like this is the pot calling the kettle black? A politician is shocked to discover someone's opinion can be influenced by money!

Anonymous User
Posted by Stan Morrison
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:28 PM EST

The money that the pharmaceutical companies pay to physicians and to members of Congress through lobbyists has colossal returns for investment. The money to Congress and physicians does not get passed on to consumers directly. The money paid out simply assures higher prices here for the same drugs sold in other countries, such as Canada. Finding doctors with conflicts of interest, while exemplary, is small potatoes compared to the overall way the pharmacy industry operates.

Anonymous User
Posted by Rick
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:34 PM EST

Does anyone track Grassley's campaign contributions -- are they transparent?

Anonymous User
Posted by Jacques
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:35 PM EST

Senator Grassley, do us a favor - see if you can recruit other senators to do the kind of things you are doing. We need similar help in other areas and industries too. God bless you!!!!

Anonymous User
Posted by Jesse D
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:36 PM EST

Go to CCHR.org for more info on the abuses of big Pharma and Psychiatry. They just released a documentary called "Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging" on this vary topic.

Anonymous User
Posted by p.g.
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:36 PM EST

we need more people like grassley to police these people who cannot and often times will not police themselves, good job sen grassley.

Anonymous User
Posted by Steve
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:40 PM EST

Thanks Senator Grassley, keep up the good work. People like Goodwin should have their licenses revoked. I'm glad we have some people in Congress that earn their money.

Anonymous User
Posted by bill
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:40 PM EST

"Everybody does it" and "I didn't consider it to be a conflict of interest". So why did't you dislcose the payments on your program? Dr. Goodwin's statements reveal the moral emptiness at the core of so much of our society.

Anonymous User
Posted by daniel d
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:41 PM EST

I applaud the efforts of mr Grassley. Experts are obligated to disclose who they work for when they are speaking or offering an opinion. It should be common practice to disclose this information.

Anonymous User
Posted by Avatar
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:42 PM EST

Re: Goodwin's comments to NYT.

It didn't occur to him that doing what everyone else was doing at the time was questionable ? How about ethical ? How about conflict of interest ? If "everyone else" decided to commit suicide, would he have followed suit ? Poor excuse, Dr. Goodwin !

Anonymous User
Posted by Paul Moran
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:45 PM EST

Well done Senator Grassley.

Anonymous User
Posted by Tim
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:46 PM EST

And when will the good Senator extend the same transparency to Congress--the biggest drug dole of them.

Anonymous User
Posted by S.B.
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:46 PM EST

While I applaud Senator Graggley's efforts, perhaps he should turn his knack for exposing this sort of thing to his own "house" so to speak... what about exposing the ties between members of Congress and the pharmaceutical, energy, and construction/contracting corporations, among others? I believe that, as another commenter has stated, that this is "small potatoes"; after all, were talking about a radio personality here, not someone elected to represent the best interests of the people...

Anonymous User
Posted by Matt
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:46 PM EST

Its a shame that Senator Grassley's great work on this is going un-noticed, and in lieu we have to follow Palin to a Turkey farm. As a supporter of Obama, I sure hope Grassley is in the Unity Circle of Obama's plans.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jim Kempsell
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:47 PM EST

Count me as another Democrat who thanks Sen. Grassley for uncovering this kind of activity. It seems that Dr. Goodwin and his kind (not to mention the Pharm industry...) are directly responsible for skyrocketing health care costs.

Anonymous User
Posted by country mouse
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:49 PM EST

*warning* cchr.org is a Church of Scientology sponsored group. Scientology tries to discredit legitimate science-based psychiatric treatment and deny people the help they need. If you research Scientology, you'll discover it's an organization that uses overwhelming legal force to suppress dissent and disclosure of its religious doctrines.

Anonymous User
Posted by sonia seplowin
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:49 PM EST

There should be harsher punishment for these doctors and researchers especially for the drug companies who continue these unethical practices because of their greed...throw them all in jail like the drug pushers on the streets, they are no different as far as I am concerned.

We need more Senators like Grassley. Thank you Senator Grassely for tenacity in this investigation.

Posted by john brown
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:52 PM EST

for this very reason i wanted a proven watchdog(sara palin) a washington outsider as v.p.----bravo to the senator grassley for looking out for the little guy

Anonymous User
Posted by Shannon
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:52 PM EST

Another Democrat in line to say "Thank you Sen. Grassley."

Anonymous User
Posted by S.B.
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:54 PM EST

Correction... Grassley (all do respect, Sanator)

Anonymous User
Posted by Bob Calo
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:55 PM EST

good government at work....although I agree with comment above about Grassley looking at his own house, as well. No one gets a pass on this kind of thing and NPR will need to step up its self-policing to retain the trust of its audience. If you go to any medical conference these days, it's quite clear that researchers understand the conflict of interest rules... every presentation starts with a full disclosure of their relationships with pharma, big and little. So I don't buy "changing ethics considerations" as a defense.

Posted by Casey
Friday, November 21, 2008 3:55 PM EST

Reply to Rick,

Great question! We have to investigate the investigators too. Here is a website that tracks Grassley's campaign contributions.

LINK

Grassley has taken money from pharmaceuticals and still investigates them. It seems like he is doing a great service, but it is good to keep our eyes open.

Posted by Jake
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:09 PM EST

Wow, it is amazing, all that this people had to do is be upfront about it and these idiots would still have their jobs and radio show. Why does everyone need to hide their dealings? Now they lost their credibility too.

Anonymous User
Posted by Richard Morgan
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:25 PM EST

I have long felt that psychiatry is this country to be bogus. These people do little or nothing to deal with the underlying causes of mental disorders rampant in the american culture and instead offer medication. And now we truly know why. Greed.

Anonymous User
Posted by bill
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:28 PM EST

Damn I really like it when a Republican does good, seriously I wish more "servants of the people" were there for the people instead fo the lobbyists and themselves.

Anonymous User
Posted by Russell
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:45 PM EST

What?! A biased, self-dealing liar at NPR? Say it aint so!

Anonymous User
Posted by Stuart
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:46 PM EST

Congratulations Senator, you are a real crime fighter. While $30 trillion worth of world wealth has evaporated, you (the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee) have busted a radio talk show host.

You are irrelevant.

Anonymous User
Posted by Hmmm
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:52 PM EST

The only real problem here is they still have the option to hide payments under $500. Is there language in the bill to say they can't pay them $500 a day every day for a month?

Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, November 21, 2008 6:02 PM EST

Under professional journalistic ethics, you cannot and should not take $500 or ANYTHING of value. NPR, and producer Lichtenstein are supposed to be the watchdogs here as well.
"Refuse gifts, favors, free travel and special treatment....." says the Soceity of Professional Journlists Code of Ethics. (Well thought out code that many professionals believe in.)
"Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility..."

See the SPJ Code of Ethics:
LINK

Anonymous User
Posted by Nurse
Friday, November 21, 2008 6:05 PM EST

I had trouble with "Infinite Mind" promoting an abusive and unvalidated psychotherapy for adopted and foster children. So I'm not surprised other unethical dealings are surfacing.

Anonymous User
Posted by innerjuju
Friday, November 21, 2008 6:08 PM EST

Senator Grassley Had a bad experience with the medical profession during the illness/death of his wife. After which his attitude towards everything medical became biased (pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hosptials, nursing homes- pathological hatred.) To him, there is not enough regulation on the face of the earth. No matter how bad a GAO report is, it isn't bad enough. Should a GAO report say something is working well, then it must be suspect. When, in a case like this, he actually does find something, it only goes to feed this pathology. The medical profession as a whole will be safer when there is a new top dog at the wheel, after Rep. Grassley is finally voted out of office... or keels over from old age (which is infinitely more likely.) He should only hope that he won't need the help of the medical community and the countless dedicated men and women who efforts he has spent years attempting to rub into the ground.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, November 21, 2008 6:20 PM EST

Grassley is not stopping with Dr. Goodwin.
Here is the Congressional Record (type in Goodwin)

LINK


Pharmalot reports that Grassley is also looking at Goodwin's consulting firm Best Practice that advises on how to use drugs off-label, a big no-no:

LINK

Also Slate did a good job last May reporting on the radio show done by Goodwin, "Prozac Nation: Revisted" where he had four experts who said problems with Prozac are overblown - BTW- they were drug consultants too! HELLO!!!

LINK

Anonymous User
Posted by Sam McBride
Friday, November 21, 2008 8:08 PM EST

The blase response of Dr. Goodwin to the New York Times is business as usual for the corrupt "profession" he represents. His contempt for honest dealings is further represented in the proliferaton of psychotropic-drug treatment of hapless, men, women, children and now even infants in swaddling. The scam has filtered down to a vast number of MD's who brushed aside the Hippocratic Oath long ago. All the endless mental health disease mongering is done without a shred of honest provable science to justify their damaging sales campaigns. The very roots of the psychiatric profession were born out of the moronic ideas of Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig who proposed the idea that man evolved from mud. This idea appealed to the Grand Militarist Bismark who championed the idea and it helped bliterate any sense of morality he may have had as he recklessly made cannon fodder out of all the available men of military age. Apparently the idea still has appeal even to the polititians and media who have there hand outs for the very generous dollops of cash from Big Pharma. Conscience be damned.

Anonymous User
Posted by fake name
Friday, November 21, 2008 9:01 PM EST

It's sad when the government's watchdog, the media, has people in it that are so greedy that the government has to go after them. Good job, Sen. Grassley, he's the better journalist, when compared to the host of "The Infinite Mind."

Posted by Rod
Saturday, November 22, 2008 12:52 AM EST

It's not surprising that Dr. Goodwin is on the pharma payroll because the integrity of NPR is already compromised. Next time you listen to any NPR program, listen to the names of sponsors. It's become another commercial network, but with tea and crumpets.

Anonymous User
Posted by Dean
Saturday, November 22, 2008 6:36 AM EST

I'm puzzled that a Republican would do something so unfriendly toward business.
Even though this is good and necessary investigation, I've gotta think Grassley is going after academics or NPR. Public interest just happens to have been served.

Anonymous User
Posted by Fraser
Wednesday, December 03, 2008 12:41 PM EST

The interesting thing is that if the main man behind the 'disorder' Bi Polar was paid millions by the psychiatric drug companies to promote the disorder, and if that is seen as an obvious conflict of interest, then why not investigate the legitimacy of the 'disorder' itself. If he was willing to accept millions from the drug company to promote the drug and not disclose it and to sign his name to papers promoting it which he did not write then we cannot trust him at all. So therefor I do not trust the disorder which he helped invent.

Anonymous User
Posted by P. B.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008 1:03 PM EST

It is about time someone confronted the abuse of big pharma and psychiatry. Thank you Senator Grassley, for stepping up and telling the truth.

Anonymous User
Posted by Janet Stein
Wednesday, December 03, 2008 6:57 PM EST

We need more public servants like Sen. Grassley. Psychiatrists such as Biederman, Nemeroff and Goodwin have used an undeserved status as "experts" to push harmful drugs whose side effects include death. Sen. Grassley's investigation should give us all to think: just because an "expert" says it doesn't make it true.

Posted by Your Friend
Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:56 PM EST

Great article! I have posted it on my blog, too.

Keep up the great work!

Comments for this article are closed.

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