Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) just keeps uncovering all kinds of skeletons in the closets of influential people.
This time he has found that a popular National Public Radio (NPR) host of the health and science show, “The Infinite Mind,” has a conflict-of-interest with the very drug companies he talks about.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, earned at least $1.3 million over the last five years, lecturing for drug makers and keeping that relationship secret.
He is the first media figure uncovered by Sen. Grassley, who as the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member has focused his investigation into conflicts-of-interest so far between doctors and medical researchers and drug companies.
“The Infinite Mind,” is a weekly program that has more than one million listeners in 300 radio markets.
Dr. Goodwin is a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health who often discusses mental health disorders on his show, such as bipolar disorder.
In a September 2005 program, he suggested that children with bipolar disorder who do not undergo treatment, could suffer brain damage. He has frequently suggested to his audience that “mood stabilizers” are safe and effective in bipolar children.
On the day he discussed mood stabilizers for children on his show, Dr. Goodwin took $2,500 from GlaxoSmithKline to promote Lamictal, a mood stabilizer, during one lecture at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. Altogether that year he collected another $329,000 for promoting the drug. Grassley uncovered about nine drug makers funding Dr. Goodwin.
Did NPR know about the activity?
No, says NPR, which will remove “The Infinite Mind” from its satellite radio service next week.
The program’s producer, Bill Lichtenstein of Lichtenstein Creative Media, says he asked Dr. Goodwin about his consulting activities. Dr. Goodwin denied it, says Lichtenstein, who has spent decades as a producer at 20/20, World News Tonight and Nightline. Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc. also distributes “The Infinite Mind.”
Blame the misunderstanding on changing ethics considerations, says Dr. Goodwin.
“More than 10 years ago when he and I got involved in this effort, it didn’t occur to me that my doing what every other expert in the field does might be considered a conflict of interest,” Dr. Goodwin said to the New York Times.
The show is now going off the air.
Sen. Grassley has been exploring the financial disclosures of doctors, professors and researchers, and comparing them with the payments listed by drug companies.
He has uncovered conflicts among psychiatrists at Harvard University, among them Dr. Joseph Biederman, considered a leader in children’s psychiatry. He took at least $1.6 million from the drug companies that make antipsychotic medicines that he promotes for children.
Dr. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University earned more than $2.8 million consulting for drug companies over the last five years. Both doctors are required by the universities, to disclose all payments in full.
As a result of failing to do so, Dr. Nemeroff lost a $9 million research grant for Emory and has given up his leadership as head of the school’s psychiatry department.
It’s long been known that pharmaceutical companies extend deep roots of influence into opinion makers. Sen. Grassley’s investigation has shown that universities and now the media are incapable of policing those conflicts.
As a result, some drug companies, such as Eli Lilly and Merck, promise transparency in posting the payments they extend for consulting services, beginning next year.
Grassley is aggressively advocating transparency in the medical establishment and is promoting the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which will require drug companies and medical device makers to disclose any payments of value above $500 to physicians, and now perhaps, the media.
Source: Injury Board