Yesterday’s New York Times included the piece, Researchers Fail to Reveal Full Drug Pay, which explained that renowned Harvard child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman had failed to report money accepted from the makers of antipsychotic drugs.
The National Institutes of Health, which is the major U.S. funder of medical research, requires researchers to disclose of earnings over $10,000 per year to their universities, such as when they receive payments from the makers of drugs they are studying. Senator Charles Grassley has been investigating the financial relationships between drug companies and researchers, and explains in his report to the Senate Finance Committee that what initially looked like “a couple hundred thousand dollars” received by two psychiatrists was eventually found to be much more:
Dr. Biederman suddenly admitted to over $1.6 million dollars from the drug companies. And Dr. Spencer also admitted to over $1 million. Meanwhile, Dr. Wilens also reported over $1.6 million in payments from the drug companies. The question you might ask is: Why weren’t Harvard and Mass General watching over these doctors? The answer is simple: They trusted these physicians to honestly report this money.”
The document also notes that in some cases researchers have received federal grant money to study a drug while also accepting money from the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug under investigation.
Sen. Grassley previously introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act [S 2029] last fall to require more transparency in payments made to physicians by manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies, and to make the resulting information available to the public through an online registry. The bill was referred to the Senate finance committee; companion bill HR 5605 has been referred to the House subcommittee on health.