A Tale of Censorship and Secrecy Starring the American Psychiatric Association

Alison Bass

First published 4/4/11 on Alison Bass

Psychiatry is supposed to be all about disclosure, disclosing the dark secrets of one’s past to a professional in an effort to heal or, at the very least, figure out why one is in such psychic pain. But given the recent actions of the American Psychiatric Association, the largest trade group for psychiatrists in the U.S., one might get the impression that the profession is really all about censorship and obfuscation.

Remember when the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), as part of an effort to get the NIH to crack down on ghostwriting, released documents showing that a psychopharmacology handbook for primary care doctors, authored by then psychiatry kingpins Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg, had actually been ghost-written by a company hired by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the blockbuster antidepressant, Paxil? The New York Times broke the story last fall, relying on internal Glaxo documents obtained in the course of a lawsuit against the drug giant, and a number of other journalists, including myself, blogged about it — see here. The documents showed that Glaxo hired Scientific Therapeutics Information (STI) to prepare a draft of the textbook with the understanding that Glaxo could review the initial drafts before publication. The handbook itself, which was published in 1999 by the APA, essentially promoted Paxil, among other drugs, as a safe and effective treatment for anxiety and depression.

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The Corrosive Influence of Industry Money on Cardiology Practice Guidelines

Alison Bass

First published 3/28/11 on Alison Bass

In a finding that may stun heart patients but surprise few others, researchers have found that more than half of the doctors who wrote key clinical practice guidelines in cardiology had financial ties to medical device and drug companies that stood to benefit from those guidelines. The study, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, raises serious questions about the reliability of such clinical guidelines in treating heart disease.

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Are We Seeing a Concerted Drug Industry Campaign Against the FDA?

ALISON BASS

First published 2/10/11 on Alison Bass’ blog.

There must be something in the air. Either that, or the drug and medical device industry has embarked on a concerted campaign to improve its tattered public image and bully the FDA into backing down from recent efforts to ensure that unsafe drugs and medical devices are kept from the market.

First appeared an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe early this week complaining that the average number of new drugs approved by the FDA since 2005 has dropped 33 percent and urging the FDA to once again speed up the process. The op-ed was penned by none other than Christoph Westphal, a biotech entrepreneur who made a mint when he sold his startup, Sirius, to GlaxoSmithKline in 2008 for a whopping $720 million.

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