Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Key Opinion Leader With A Very Short Fuse

Psychiatrist Joe "Short Fuse" Biederman of Harvard University is really in hot water now. The sordid details can be seen in a fantastic article by Gardiner Harris of the New York Times. Here's just one snippet:

In a November 1999 e-mail message, John Bruins, a Johnson & Johnson marketing executive, begs his supervisors to approve a $3,000 check to Dr. Biederman as payment for a lecture he gave at the University of Connecticut. “Dr. Biederman is not someone to jerk around,” Mr. Bruins wrote. “He is a very proud national figure in child psych and has a very short fuse.” Mr. Bruins wrote that Dr. Biederman was furious after Johnson & Johnson rejected a request that Dr. Biederman had made for a $280,000 research grant. “I have never seen someone so angry,” Mr. Bruins wrote. “Since that time, our business became non-existant (sic) within his area of control.”

Mr. Bruins concluded that unless Dr. Biederman received a check soon, “I am truly afraid of the consequences.”

A series of documents described the goals behind establishing the Johnson & Johnson Center for the study of pediatric psychopathology, where Dr. Biederman serves as chief. A 2002 annual report for the center said its research must satisfy three criteria: improve psychiatric care for children, have high standards and “move forward the commercial goals of J.& J.,” court documents said.

And from Bloomberg,

Biederman “approached Janssen multiple times to propose the creation of a Janssen-MGH center,” according to an e-mail from a J&J executive. The center would “generate and disseminate data supporting the use” of Risperdal in children, the e-mail said. Pediatric use was approved by U.S. regulators in August 2007.

Wow. And the plot sickens, er, thickens from there. Normally, being caught with one's hands this deep into the cookie jar would lead me to write a much more blistering piece, but the day job shows no signs of abating in its workload. Fortunately, Philip Dawdy is rolling with the story at Furious Seasons (1, 2).

Let's see if Biederman's defenders can defend him in another op-ed as they did a few months ago. Or maybe we can leave Joe to defend himself. Here's what he said a few months ago when facing criticism:

Biederman dismisses most critics, saying that they cannot match his scientific credentials as co author of 30 scientific papers a year and director of a major research program at the psychiatry department that is top-ranked in the "US News & World Report" ratings.

"The critics 'are not on the same level. We are not debating as to whether [a critic] likes brownies and I like hot dogs. In medicine and science, not all opinions are created equal,' said Biederman, a native of Czechoslovakia who came to Mass. General in 1979 after medical training in Argentina and Israel.

Nope, most of his critics cannot match his credentials of apparently shaking down hundreds of thousands of dollars from Johnson & Johnson. But maybe I just like brownies and he likes hot dogs. Another key opinion leader whose reputation is deservedly shot to shreds. Nemeroff, Biederman, and the list goes on.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Staying Alive

The day job has been merciless lately and promises little relief in the near future. Thanks for the emails. I am surviving and hope to write something here relatively soon (emphasis on relatively).