"As the recent attacks on APA and leaders of the profession have occurred, it has struck me that some of the detractors in the press have voiced concern that some folks have earned too good a living, often by doing presentations," he said. "I have heard from colleagues and directly from one reporter asking me about one of my colleagues having too high an annual income. I can assure you these detractors would not ask the same question of a surgeon or radiologist earning 10 times the amount paid our colleagues. None of us do what we do for money. Yet, it is also time for us to realize that our members and residents have never taken vows of poverty, and the complexity of the work deserves to be recognized. We need to ask ourselves how we have contributed to our own devaluation with which others seem to resonate, and we need to reverse the course. The rewards for our dedication should not be limited to a sense of pride, but we are also entitled to be paid commensurate to the challenge.So Schatzberg must be diving into dumpsters, begging at interstate off-ramps, and the like. Oh, wait a minute. This is the same Alan Schatzberg who in 2007 owned close to 5 million shares of Corcept (which translates into roughly 5 million dollars). I have no idea how many shares he owns currently. Corcept, in case you missed it, has shown its drug mifepristone (aka RU-486: "The Abortion Pill") is ineffective in relieving depression among patients with psychotic depression. Schatzberg, at one time, was the chief scientific officer of Corcept and was also the cofounder of the company. According to Corcept's website, he is still a scientific advisor. Despite the stuides of mifepristone showing negative results, the results were spun in a manner to make them sound as if they were positive (1, 2, 3, 4). In a press release, Schatzberg was quoted as saying that mifepristone "may be the equivalent of shock treatments in a pill." Right, with all of the negative studies, it's definitely shock treatment, meditation, and running a marathon all wrapped together in a capsule. Should he be paid "commensutate to the challenge" of trying to weave positive findings from negative results? I don't know what role, if any, he played in the misleading publications surrounding mifepristone. But in his role as chief of the scientific advisory board, I'd venture a guess that he had some involvement. But worry not, the negative results were not spun into positive findings for the sake of money, but for an altruistic love of patients with depression. I'm touched.
Schatzberg was also busted by yours truly putting his name on a duplicate publication that pimped Cymbalta, Lilly's antidepressant. The study presented data from the same set of patients who were involved in a previously published Cymbalta study. Scientific results are not meant to be published in nearly identical form in two different journals. But that didn't stop Schatzberg and his coauthors. If you've not read the lengthy post on this topic, please feel free to check it out in order to understand my cynicism regarding his recent speech.
Another quote from his talk:
We need to sit down with industry and come up with ways of interacting that are acceptable to both sides and fit with future guidelines. I have pledged to follow up on recent initiatives and work with Dr. Scully [APA's medical director] and our Board of Trustees to effect a new partnership—a partnership we can be proud of for what it contributes to the well-being of our patients and our profession.I can only wonder what type of mutually agreeable interactions would meet Schatzberg's standards. Duplicate publication, serving as a scientific advisor for a company that writes scientifically dubious papers? And it appears that he's encouraging psychiatrists to be greedy -- take the money and don't feel bad about it. Taking industry money is perfectly acceptable in some instances, but it needs to be transparent, and there are plentiful examples of academics getting paid by industry and slanting science in a sponsor-friendly way.
And the clincher:
"The time has come," he said, "to be proud of what we do and to advocate for what we and our patients justly deserve."Right, psychiatrists deserve to make as much money as possible bending science for corporate sponsors -- and they should be proud of it too. Am I being too cynical? Maybe. But when a guy with Schatzberg's record starts talking about psychiatrists needing to rake in more money from industry, it makes me think I'm living in Bizarro World. Get ready, APA memebers; it's going to be an interesting ride.