Psych Crime Reporter

September 15, 2012

Pharma notes psychiatrist Martin Keller’s authorship of fraudulent study but Brown University declines to take action

Filed under: conflicts of interest,psychiatric drug side effects,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 12:45 pm
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The University will not take action against former Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Martin Keller, despite acknowledgment by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline that Keller co-authored a fraudulent study advocating adolescent use of the antidepressant Paxil.

In a record-breaking $3 billion settlement this July, GSK pleaded guilty to selling the misbranded prescription drugs Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia. According to the plea agreement, GSK’s promotion of Paxil was largely based on Keller’s “false and misleading” article, published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Since the article’s publication, the ethics of the study—commonly referred to as Study 329—have been scrutinized in a book, a BBC documentary and a Senate Finance Committee investigation. Critics have said the study inappropriately characterized the drug’s effectiveness while downplaying the risk of adolescent suicide associated with Paxil—a significantly larger number of patients treated with Paxil had “a possibly suicidal event” than patients treated with a placebo did, according to the government complaint against GSK. The complaint also claimed that Keller’s article was ghostwritten by GSK representatives.

Following allegations of research misconduct, the University conducted an internal investigation into Keller’s article but has never publicly discussed its findings, citing confidentiality. “The fact that Professor Keller has continued to be chair and continued research and continued to get grants speaks for itself,” then-Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 told The Herald in 2009.

“The University has fully reviewed this issue, and there is nothing that emerged from the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding (Keller’s) research that would prompt any further reviews of the paper by the University,” wrote Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, in an email to The Herald.

Keller, who stepped down as chair of the psychiatry department in 2009 but stayed on as a professor, announced his retirement earlier this year and stepped down in July. Pending approval from the National Institutes of Health, the University will transfer his grants to multiple investigators, Wing wrote, calling this a “standard practice” at Brown. Keller did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The government’s charges against GSK came under the interstate commerce clause. According to a government official speaking anonymously, the government cannot charge the individual researchers who co-authored the study because the research was not funded by federal dollars, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported last month.

When Study 329 was initially conducted, researchers found that Paxil did not perform better than placebos on the measures the researchers had outlined beforehand. In internal documents, GSK called the results of the study “commercially unacceptable,” according to the government complaint. After viewing the results, the company introduced additional measures on which Paxil performed better than the placebo.

Paxil would soon become one of the 10 most prescribed drugs in the country, according to the plea agreement. As part of its promotion of Paxil, GSK would regularly invite physicians to conferences in resort locations, providing fine dining and expensive forms of entertainment, according to the government complaint.

Keller acknowledged in 2006 that over the years, he had received tens of thousands of dollars from GSK and its affiliates.

In recent years, groups such as the Project on Government Oversight have written to the University requesting that action be taken against Keller.

The global nonprofit Healthy Skepticism wrote to administrators last year, requesting the University’s help in an effort to have the article retracted. Wing responded that the University would not support a retraction, adding that the University takes allegations about faculty research very seriously.

Healthy Skepticism plans to write the University again this year, in the hopes that a new president might be more inclined to support its efforts, said Jon Jureidini, a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia who co-authored last year’s letters.

Source: Sahil Luthra, “U. forgoes action against prof after study fraud,” The Brown Daily Herald, September 14, 2012.

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February 28, 2011

Pearson “Trey” Sunderland, former National Institutes of Mental Health psychiatrist loses license to practice

Filed under: conflicts of interest,crime and fraud,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:50 pm
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On January 1, 2011, the New York State Department of Health Board for Professional Medical Conduct suspended the license of psychiatrist Pearson “Trey” Sunderland III, for an indefinite period of no less than one year.

This action is a result of the following: On December 8 2006, in U.S. District Court, District of Maryland, Sunderland pleaded guilty to Conflict of Interest.  He was sentenced in January 2007 to two years probation including 400 hours community service.

Sunderland, who was the chief of geriatric psychiatry for the National Institute of Mental Health, was found to have improperly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed income from the Pfizer pharmaceutical company while helping to control government-sponsored research with the same company.

As part of his guilty plea, Sunderland admitted accepting payments from Pfizer without authorization from his superiors and ethics watchdogs.  He was required under NIMH rules to disclose all income earned from outside activities and travel expenses exceeding $260 that were paid by outside sources.

Sunderland had been approached by Pfizer in late 1997 about NIMH joining a scientific collaboration to search for way to detect the presence and progression of Alzheimer’s disease but did not tell his bosses he’d cut a side deal with Pfizer for personal payments.

In March 2009, the state of Maryland revoked Sunderland’s license due to his criminal conviction.

Source: Consent Agreement in the Matter of Pearon Sunderland III, M.D., CO-09-05-2883-A, State of New York Department of Health.

December 1, 2010

Has psychiatrist Henry Nasrallah accurately reported his pharma income to the University of Cincinnati?

Filed under: atypical antipsychotics,conflicts of interest,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 4:24 am
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The University of Cincinnati website describes schizophrenia researcher Henry Nasrallah as “an internationally recognized psychiatrist, educator and researcher.”  Thanks to the work of the ProPublica news group, the University can now add “internationally recognized researcher compromised by pharmaceutical company influence.”

ProPublica, a public interest news agency, recently issued the report “Dollars for Docs,” in which they identified 384 physicians who received more than $100,000 from one or more of the seven pharmaceutical companies which publish such information (such companies include Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer).

Pharmaceutical companies may pay physicians for various reasons, such as for giving promotional speeches about a company’s drug to groups of doctors or being a company’s paid consultant.

Nasrallah received more than $60,000 from Pfizer the last two quarters of 2009 for presenting “expert-led forums” and for related travel expenses.

He received $41,920 from Astrazeneca in early 2010 for being a paid speaker on their behalf.

He received more than $6,000 from Johnson & Johnson in 2010 for speaking fees.

Nasrallah is not the first or only University of Cincinnati psychiatrist to have his financial conflicts of interests exposed:   Melissa Delbello, a pediatric research psychiatrist with the University of Cincinnati was cited by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for her failure to disclose to the university how much she had earned from pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, she was the lead author of a study that concluded that children responded well to the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca.  She disclosed that she’d received $100,000 from the company between 2005 and 2007, but Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley discovered it was more than double that: $238,000.

Which raises the question: Has Nasrallah accurately reported his pharma income to the University?

November 26, 2010

University of Cincinnati psychiatry professor Henry Nasrallah received more than $100K from drug companies last year

The University of Cincinnati website describes schizophrenia researcher Henry Nasrallah as “an internationally recognized psychiatrist, educator and researcher.”  Thanks to the work of the ProPublica news group, the University can now add “internationally recognized researcher compromised by pharmaceutical company influence.”

ProPublica, a public interest news agency, recently issued the report “Dollars for Docs,” in which they identified 384 physicians who received more than $100,000 from one or more of the seven pharmaceutical companies which publish such information (such companies include Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer).

Pharmaceutical companies may pay physicians for various reasons, such as for giving promotional speeches about a company’s drug to groups of doctors or being a company’s paid consultant.

Nasrallah received more than $60,000 from Pfizer the last two quarters of 2009 for presenting “expert-led forums” and for related travel expenses.

He received $41,920 from Astrazeneca in early 2010 for being a paid speaker on their behalf.

He received more than $6,000 from Johnson & Johnson in 2010 for speaking fees.

[Delbello] disclosed that she’d received $100,000 from the company between 2005 and 2007, but Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley discovered it was more than double that: $238,000.

Nasrallah is not the first or only University of Cincinnati psychiatrist to have his financial conflicts of interests exposed:   Melissa Delbello, a pediatric research psychiatrist with the University of Cincinnati was cited by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for her failure to disclose to the university how much she had earned from pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, she was the lead author of a study that concluded that children responded well to the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca.  She disclosed that she’d received $100,000 from the company between 2005 and 2007, but Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley discovered it was more than double that: $238,000.

Which raises the question: Has Nasrallah accurately reported his pharma income to the University?

(Used with permission of Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.)

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